City Walk – Lohe Wala Pul, Daryaganj
A vanished world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
What if Delhi disappears. Will the land where it stood still be known as Delhi?
This is precisely the posthumous destiny of Lohe Wala Pul, the foot-over bridge of loha, or iron, that used to span upon a traffic light crossing on Netaji Subhash Marg. The bridge was dismantled in the pre-instagram era. On googling, the search engine spews out images of the capital’s Lohe ka Pul rail bridge upon the Yamuna instead. Even so, while in Daryaganj, try to ask any random person the way to Lohe Wala Pul, and you shall be directed to the vanished landmark.
In the old days, when the Sunday Book Bazar was hosted in Daryaganj, the Jama Masjid-side of Lohe Wala Pul marked the last point of the mile-long market. Announcing the bridge’s impending removal by the city’s corporation, a 2009 report in Hindustan Times quotes an officer, explaining that the “general public is not able to use the bridge because anti-social elements frequent the place. We plan to dismantle it and construct an underpass cum subway.”
As of this afternoon, 13 years later, there is no “underpass cum subway.” The “general public” often have to run, freeze, run while crossing the madly chaotic road.
Sitting by his pavement stall, golgappa vendor Shiv Shankar, who has been in the area for 20 years, vividly remembers walking on the bridge. “Sometimes I would stop to watch the buses passing underneath. Their sounds—katar katar—will echo in the pul.”
Meanwhile, the area might lose yet another longtime landmark—barber Baldev Raj’s pavement establishment at the foot of the non-existent bridge. He hasn’t been sighted for three weeks. “Baldev’s condition is very serious, he is in the hospital… he won’t be coming back even if he recovers,” says his friend Rajpal. The labourer is standing with his colleagues on the very spot where Baldev Raj would sit cross-legged on a chatai, surrounded by his handheld mirrors, shaving brushes, scissors, razors, and the day’s newspaper. In his 60s, the barber once told The Delhi Walla that “the Lohe Wala Pul was being built when I first arrived in Dilli.”
While no material remains are left of the bridge, the fact that it did exist is intensely evoked by a corner building. The following words are embossed artistically in giant letters on its white facade—“hanging bridge.”
This way to Lohe Wala Pul