City Walk – Gali Hanuman Mandir Wali, Old Delhi
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The arched entrance is made of marble, but at this afternoon hour, the entry is shut closed with a metal shutter. The contrast between the smooth white stone and the choppy metallic centrepiece is so jarring that the “dwar,” the doorway, actually looks far more fascinating than if it were made solely of marble.
This portal is the core of Gail Hanuman Mandir Wali, for it is the entrance to Hanuman Mandir. The gali is off the bustling Sir Syed Ahmad Road. It is so secretively situated that no outsider might get a whiff of its existence. The narrow lane is lined only with private addresses. This moment, no sign of anyone, not even a rat. (The photo is from another day).
The mouth of the gali unspools straight towards the temple, turns right, continues ahead for a few meters, and turns sharply left, concluding some distance away into an impasse.
Despite being largely anonymous, the gali is steeped in extraordinary beauty; the unconventional artistry is perhaps borne out of circumstances than by design. Check the two doors that speckle the gali’s opening passage. Their patina of chronic dereliction is emitting a dull feel of time passing. The first of these doorways is so worn-out that it has to be patched up on two places with planks of painted woods. The second door has its handles joined with a knotted plastic chord. The door’s top wood casing is broken, the underlying layer of wood is rotting.
Further ahead, more doors of similar shabbiness. One has sculpted marigolds stamped on to its metallic surface. One has its lock and latch thoroughly cobwebbed. One is partially broken, its Chinese lock a joke. One is so huge that its grandness dwarfs the cramped lane—its gigantic letterbox adds to the awe.
The temple’s street facing wall is dramatic. Parts of the outer concrete have skimmed off, revealing flashes of old-fashioned lakhori bricks. On the gali’s final stretch, this same wall becomes wholly raw with lakhori bricks. The construction material of yesteryears exist elsewhere as well in the Walled City, but in smaller patches.
This last stretch of the street has one of Delhi’s most unusual nameplates. The house dweller is “Six International Photo Contest Awards Winner.”