Mission Delhi – Abdul Wajid, Todarmal Lane
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There are different ways of owning a piece of the city, The Delhi Walla realises, while walking with Abdul Wajid — a 19-year-old college student — on Central Delhi’s Todarmal Lane.
This is such a quiet place that it’s difficult to believe that the noisy Bengali Market is just a turning away. The lane’s bungalows with their closed gates and guard cabins add to the hushed atmosphere. The little park with its see-saws and swings is tucked on one side. It’s empty at the moment.
And there is no one but us to see the evening sunlight so softly scattering through the tree leaves.
“This road is very special,” says Mr Wajid. ”It contains the memory of my life’s greatest friendship.”
For more than two years, he had been coming here with a friend. Sometimes they would sit quietly together in the park. “One Sunday afternoon we were having chicken burger on the bench when a cop came and asked us to leave… he said local residents object to outsiders.”
Mr Wajid met his friend in a tuition center for maths. One afternoon they bunked the classes and came to Todarmal Lane “because it’s so peaceful here, like being in a hill station, and we both felt far from the rest of the world.”
Over time, the lane came to define their growing bond. “No matter where we spent our day together, we’d always end it with a walk here.”
However, something happened to their friendship late last year “for reasons I wish to keep to myself and my friend.” He only remarks that it’s the first time he has come here after the friendship drifted away — I was scared to come here… but now I think I’ll come back again and again…”
On passing in front of a multi-storeyed house, the young man suddenly stops and remarks, ”It’s true I don’t own a plot in Todarmal but it still belongs to me, perhaps more intensely than my own home.”
[This is the 148th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The man who owns Todarmal Lane