City Landmark – Notary Clerks’ Cubicles, Asaf Ali Marg
A Chekhovian world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
7 am. Tables are being put out, chairs are being unfolded. Along the corridor where the pedestrians walk. And also along the roadside.
It is like a pavement cafe opening up for the day in Paris. But this is Asaf Ali Marg in central Delhi. Soon enough the brief stretch will teem with notary clerks preparing legal documents for their clients, who might have to submit those to the nearby ‘Office of the Sub-Registrar.’
This open-air shrine to paperwork is extraordinarily quaint because every single notary here works on an old-fashioned typewriter. Each one’s booth comprises of a table and a chair. A passerby might easily imagine these busy typists as a bunch of writers in a class of creative writing course.
Such notaries are seen in many parts of the city, but the early morning assembling of their (metaphoric) cubicles here in Asaf Ali Marg, is intensely evocative. At this hour, the corridor is empty. The middle-aged Vasudev Bhagat (see photo) is bringing out the chairs and the tables, one by one, from a warehouse nearby, where he keeps them for the night. “This has been my job for 15 years,” he says, informing that about 25 notaries sit in the corridor daily. Mr Bhagat’s young assistant, Vijay, emerges out of the warehouse carrying a notary clerk’s old battered briefcase, with sheaves of paper sticking out of it. The boy keeps the briefcase on a table stained with marks of blue ink. Looking around with weary eyes, Mr Bhagat slowly walks back to the warehouse and reappears with a knotted cloth-bundle on his shoulder. It’s looking like a gathri in which one packs the household laundry that has to be ironed. But this gathri is packed with a typewriter, Mr Bhagat says. All the typewriters are in similar bundles.
The clerks will show up by 9. Within an hour, the corridor will start to resound with the clack-clack of their typewriters. For the moment, a thin barefoot man is sleeping on the dusty ground, by a row of tables; a pair of bricks is serving as his pillow.
The work wounds up by 5 in the evening when Mr Bhagat and Vijay lug back the tables and typewriters. After which the corridor is claimed by the homeless.