City Landmark – Old Mansion, Muneem Street, Gurgaon
An object of beauty.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A ramshackle relic from the past but so dream-like, this old mansion overlooks a lane in Gurgaon’s chaotic Sadar Bazar in the Greater Delhi Region.
Muneem street is a self-contained commercial ecosystem of small businesses. It is lined with storefronts and paan kiosks, along with a smattering of carts stocked with a variety of stuff ranging from colorful men’s underwear to brittle china cups. But the lane acquires its ethereal grace from a crumbling mansion that runs along its length.
Nobody lives in it.
The house is about a hundred years old, says an elderly shoemaker who has been trading on the street since India attained freedom in 1947. A nearby shopkeeper informs that it was built by a lawyer. Many other amateur historians of the street, too, gladly spin out tales on the house. Indeed, there is no easy way to separate fiction from fact but one doesn’t need to fret on those details. You ought to come here exclusively for the sake of aesthetic pleasures: to quietly gaze upon the architectural souvenir and admire its elegance.
The building’s ground level portions have been transformed into a series of shops; they keep the elements of the original structure hidden behind shelves and hoardings. In any case, it’s the uninhabited upper floor that fascinates the eyes, particularly the exquisite wooden chhajja adorned with delicately woven jaalis. This long balcony is punctuated with columns whose wood is so weather-beaten in places that it looks as smooth as freshly churned butter.
This afternoon the shoppers and pedestrians are too preoccupied with the concerns of daily life to look up at this piece of art. The indifference adds a pang to the beauty, as if a stunning extraterrestrial object is passing through the sky without catching anybody’s notice.
The chhajja grows more precious as you compare it to the architecture on the facing side of the street—a hodgepodge of cement and glass. The aforementioned shoemaker says that Sadar Bazar used to be crammed with structures as the old house. “All of that is gone.”
This chhajja might also vanish some day. For now, it exists, giving the so-called Millennium City its rare antiqueness.
Like an extraterrestrial beauty