City Home – Fareed Mirza, Bazar Shah Abul Khair Marg
Old home glossary.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Suburb-like flats are taking over Old Delhi’s traditional makaan, or houses. Here’s a glossary of domestic spaces soon to be lost to legends. This afternoon, building material merchant Fareed Mirza and his generous family give a tour of the house his pardada (great-grandfather) built 150 years ago on Bazar Shah Abul Khair Marg. It possesses many of the aspects of a quintessential Walled City mansion. (The tenses pretend that all these features are still in use, but they aren’t, reflecting alterations in architectural styles, and in social etiquettes.)
Devri: Narrow corridor connecting the outer door on the street to the door opening into the residence.
Mardana Kamra, or Baithak: Room for visiting mard, or men (yaar-dost!). First room in the house, beside the entrance, so that a guest not on intimate terms with the family stays away from the women of the house.
Zenana: Similar space as mardana, but for women.
Mehman Khana (see photo): Drawing room to host mehman—family friends and relatives. Doubles up as dining room, with the cloth (or plastic) dastarkhan, the dining mat, unrolled along the floor.
Sehen: Courtyard, with or without a fuvvara, or fountain.
Dalaan: The intermediary space between mehman khana and sehen, marked by a row of arches called mehrab, which rest on fluted columns of Agra stone.
Bawarchi Khana: Kitchen, situated on one side of the sehen. The cook sits or squats on the floor, beside the wood or coal-fired earthen chulha.
Gharauchi: Stone tank in the sehen to store the household’s water supply. Filled twice a day by mashak wale, who bring the paani in a goatskin bag from the neighbourhood hand-pump.
Nemat Khana: Wooden cabinet with a jaali, or net, to store leftover food, milk, etc. (Equivalent of modern-day fridge!)
Chheeka: The house’s clay-lined roof (clay keeps the inside temperature cool) is supported on beams of sagwan wood.. A metal crate called chheeka, similar to a birdcage, hangs from one of these beams. Used to keep fruit, laddus etc., away from ants, rats, cats.
Taak: Arch-shaped niches scooped into the wall to keep a holy book or a god’s idol. Also serves as a shelf to keep household objects such as dadi’s chashma, mummy’s mobile, didi’s prize-winning school certificate, bhayya’s dumbbells.
Chatt: It is rare for a house to have an additional floor. But there is always a staircase to chhat (roof).
Kolki: Store underneath the middle landing of the staircase. Usually 5 feet deep. Used to store koyla, or coal (for cooking, etc.)
Roshandaan: Small opening in the dark staircase wall, as well as in the upper reaches of the rooms, to let in roshani, the daylight, and to keep the place ventilated.
Kothri: Small attic-like space built into a corner of the room to keep out-of-season clothes. Equipped with its own tiny basement.
Tehkhana: Every house has a tehkhana, or basement. In summer afternoons, the family retires to its silence, shade and coolness.
The way we are/were