City Walk – Ansari Road, Old Delhi
A road by the wall.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
They say as the plane descends on reaching Mumbai, a window-side flier gets to see a large number of rooftops in blue.
And as you walk through Ansari Road, you pass through lots of barricades in blue—indicating that the old buildings within them are being broken down to make way for new generation updates.
Named after freedom fighter Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, who had a house here, the Old Delhi avenue (formerly Daryaganj Road) is flanked by one of the longest surviving fragments of the Walled City’s wall. But it is better-known for housing the offices of publishing houses and book distribution companies. It must also be celebrated for being one of the last custodians of grand old mansions in entire Delhi. In some of these buildings, you won’t even figure out their main entrances—shops, offices and eateries clog the ground-floor fronts.
Govind Bhawan, for instance, has a series of establishments on its ground-floor, but this weekday afternoon they all are shuttered. And now, lift your gaze and be dazzled by a balcony of exquisite lattice screen. It is an embroidery woven in concrete. While the sunlight is making similarly patterned shadows on the wall behind. Another house, an ochre-coloured creation, is a network of several roofs and corridors that seem suspended in air. Just opposite is a new edifice in the making, barricaded in that same blue of course.
By-lanes shouldn’t be overlooked either. The windows on a yellow-and-white residence feature amazing grills shaped into the numerals “1938”—perhaps the year the house was built. Another mansion has a staircase designed so artistically it evokes cake icing piled one upon the other.
Some steps ahead is one more blue barricade. It is covering a construction site sandwiched between an elegant longtime landmark and a more recent building, which is strutting in a top-to-bottom glass facade. This contradiction poignantly captures Ansari Road’s current spirit.
A world in chnage