City Monument – A Ruined Mansion, Pahari Bhojla, Old Delhi
Remains of a vanished world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Their numbers dwindle with each passing year, which is understandable. Old derelict homes do collapse after decades of benign neglect.
But this is more than merely sad — given their distinct character. Aged homes in neighbourhoods such as Shahjahanabad and Mehrauli issue their own singular statements of grace, while most modern housing complexes arguably have nothing to say at all.
The other morning, The Delhi Walla was lucky to run across a remarkable example of a time-worn structure on a street going up from the Old Delhi neighbourhood of Pahari Bhojla. I found myself standing in front of an arched door as thick as a fortress rampart, while two sets of taaks ran along the sides.
A young man approached the door and opened it, and I followed him inside. It was like entering a destroyed world. The roofs had collapsed, and the walls were fading into surreal shades of blue. Switchboards were missing switches. A picturesque window was half-boarded. Rats emerged from a hole in the ground.
A grey cat slunk around a disfigured pillar. There was grime everywhere, including in a small courtyard that stood desolate. A shopkeeper outside told me that a merchant family lived in the house 25 years ago or so. Those people moved to another part of the city, he guessed.
What sort of lives did this elegant home once harbour? I had somehow joined that lost world by simply entering through the grand doorway. With one fleeting visit, I became a part of something ethereal that gives our city its special melancholic beauty.
The shattered world