City Walk – Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Central Delhi
On emperor’s path.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It no longer needs to be known as Delhi’s Fleet Street, the London road famous for newspaper offices. At least some newspapers that were once located here have wholly or partly moved to other areas. And yet it stays rich—with history. Here’s a walk down the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg.
Reach ITO crossing. Start walking down the road named after Delhi’s last emperor. On the right stands a building decked with mosaic panels, showing figures in various costumes. Shankar’s International Dolls Museum houses more than 60,000 dolls from across the world, including a Flamenco dancer from Barcelona, a jazz musician from Harlem, and a doll “presented by Madame Tito, the First Lady of Yugoslavia.” The dolls currently remain unvisited, the museum is closed due to the pandemic.
Keep walking, and turn right into a lane. Beyond is the Delhi Gate Qabristan. Many Old Delhi dwellers are in eternal sleep here—one new grave is of Chawri Bazar’s Haji Miyan, the Walled City’s living landmark who died in the Covid’s second surge. The legendary cook Kallu Mian Nihariwalle of Turkman Gate bazaar, who died some years ago, is also buried here. One of the most recent graves is of Chitli Qabar’s Muhammed Bi, a great-grandmother who died some weeks ago of age-related causes at 98. The cemetery is pock-marked with giant unwieldy trees. Bougainvillea creepers crisscross over some of the narrow paths. The graves spread out as unsystematically as the houses in the Walled City. Cats roam boldly.
(Another turning in the road goes to the ruins of Feroze Shah Kotla. But it is so extensive that it needs an excursion exclusive to itself.)
Walk back towards the main road, and keep straight till you reach Shaheedi Park, the lovely park rarely talked of. It has Bhagat Singh’s statue. The park slab informs that it was built in the very place where, in September 1928, the revolutionary freedom fighter “decided to form the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association to establish an independent Socialist Republic in India.” The garden also has a Sufi shrine—a grave covered with green and red chadars.
Further ahead, the road divider turns into a weedy island with a stone gateway. This is Khooni Darwaza, or the “bloodied gateway”. Old Delhi gossipmongers insist that blood drips from its stone walls during monsoons. Bahadur Shah Zafar’s sons were killed here by the British after the uprising of 1857.
The road ends with Parsi Anjuman, a centre for Delhi’s tiny Parsi community. It has the only Parsi fire temple in north India.