City Neighbourhood - Laddu Ghati, Paharganj

City Neighbourhood – Laddu Ghati, Paharganj

City Neighbourhood - Laddu Ghati, Paharganj

The laddu valley

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Lady with a dog. Gentleman with a chai kettle. A temple. A peepal tree as immense as Kipling’s jungle. A water pyau. And manning the entry of this introverted world are pomegranate seller Rajinder, ice-cream seller Lalji, marigold seller Ramesh Kumar, and aloo-tikki seller Chunnilal.

This street is in a megapolis, but feels like a friendly small town, with its slow sequence of uneventful days. Such towns probably don’t exist for real, but the charmingly named Laddu Ghati—valley of laddu—does exude the ambiance of unrealistic havens. It lies in the backpackers’ district of Paharganj, but is free of cafés, lodges and backpackers—though a few rooms of next-door Hotel Relax overlook the street.

Some passers-by say that Laddu Ghati’s unusual name comes from the old days, when it had sweet shops making boondi laddu in bulk. The claim is dismissed by the young ironing man Amit, as well as by his mother Vimla, the ironing stall founder. Soon enough, the mother-son get a namaste by a neighbourhood woman out on a walk with Sam, her Pomeranian, who slows down in front of a hair-cutting saloon. Its window poster notes that “borrowing is a magic in which we give and you vanish.”

Maybe because it is so hot, the late afternoon is turning out to be hectic at Ankush’s crowded mango shake stall, tucked beside the water taps of Panchayati Pyau, which are themselves tucked beside a temple and its idols of Bhagwan Ram and other divinities. The peepal tree’s lavish fresh-green foliage crowns the area.

Deeper inside the lane, tea man Hare Ramji doesn’t bother to glance at an aged mansion’s carved wooden doorway as he passes in front of it, shooting ahead as quick as a dart. He finally halts by the aforementioned ironing stall, where he tilts his chipped kettle to pour out chai for the ironing man and his mother, who are regular clients.

As afternoon inches towards evening, the sunrays merrily mix with the Laddu Ghati dust, producing a gold light so grainy that you feel like kneading it in your fist and turning it into one big laddu.