City Walk – Galli Shiv Prasad Street, Old Delhi
World of a street.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One night, the narrow Galli Master Shiv Prasad is lit up with electric lamps. The part where the lane ends into a cramped courtyard is filled with folks watching two boys dance to a film song. There is to be a wedding soon, someone reveals.
It’s impossible to find out if any of the faces in the crowd might be related to the man after whom the street is named. The passage of time has made Master Shiv Prasad too elusive to catch. The story behind the place’s name has as many versions as the paratha fillings in Parathewali Gali. A nearby doodh wale describes Shiv Prasad as a musician who lived in this street in some long-ago era. A handicraft trader dismisses that claim by asserting that Shiv Prasad was a technical instructor in ITI “who always dressed up in dhoti and kurta,” and who died about 30 years ago. A building material supplier confidently contradicts everyone saying that Shiv Prasad was a “masterji” who taught “Alif bey” to the area’s children, and died shortly before the Partition, when the street was home to Hindus of the Kayasth community. Today, the area is peopled with Muslim families, he informs.
The lane was once the address of Sona and Chaman, Walled City’s two legendary transgenders. Sona is said to have moved to Pakistan, while Chaman lies buried in nearby Mehendiyan Qabristan. While the present-day dwellers include a handicraft trader and a tourist guide.
As the song nears its climax, the two dancers swing around wildly, as if no longer in control of their bodies.
On another day, in the afternoon, the street is empty, except for two sleeping dogs. Young Uzair pops out from his house. The handicraft merchant’s son says that the multi-storey at the lane’s dead-end came up two years ago. The class 12th student climbs to the top of that building through a seemingly endless series of steps. The roof on the fifth floor gives a view of Delhi very different from the lanes below. You even see the Connaught Place high-rises. Indeed, at this height, Galli Master Shiv Prasad appears to have strayed far from its roots.
This way to Master Shiv Prasad