City Landmark - New Wall Clock, Turkman Gate

City Landmark – New Wall Clock, Turkman Gate

City Landmark - New Wall Clock, Turkman Gate

Timeless gets new time.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The lush banyan tree stands by the old marble grave. High up in the smoggy air, the leafy branches bend over the chaotic street, keeping it marooned in perpetual shade, here in the crowded entry point of Old Delhi’s Turkman Gate Bazar.

The timeless scene has been enriched with a new wall clock. This moment, though, nobody is looking at the clock. Maybe because there is so much else to look at in the vicinity—Standard Chicken Point, Ansar Pan stall, Delite Stationary Store, Ghalib Biryani, Bismillah Bakery, Tabish Medical Center, Shahji Doodh Bhandar, Nanha’s meat shop, Moinuddin’s tea stall… this same Moinuddin installed the clock during the ramzan that ended just weeks ago. Pouring a fresh round of chai from his kettle into six paper glasses, Moinuddin mutters that he put up the clock for “show.” Hooked on a green wall, the round white clock is looking like a full moon.

Set on a marble platform, the grave is directly across the street from the tea stall. All day long, and late into the night, the market gentry gather at Moinuddin’s for chai and gupshup. Some of these regulars cross the street to sit beside the grave with their chai glass. Nobody knows whose grave it is. But then stumbling across unknown graves in the Walled City isn’t unusual. There are actually homes here with similarly unidentifiable graves within. This particular grave is elaborate, suggesting it to be of a person with rank.

Overlooking the grave’s headstone, the new wall clock—brand name Sapna—was purchased by Moinuddin last month from Lajpat Rai Market for 700 rupees. The chai man realises that most people these days resort to their mobile to find out the time, “but there are passers-by who don’t have phones… hawkers, rickshaw wale, beggars…. school children often turn their head towards this clock…”

Gazing towards the grave, Moinuddin remarks that “I feel responsible for this area… my home is upstairs.” He vaguely waves towards a cluster of upper-floor windows, towards which he returns after closing the stall late in the night (1.30am!). The clock is left unattended until the morning. Why hasn’t any thief stolen yet? Moinuddin thoughtfully laughs. “We must ask the thief.”

He now crosses the street, jumps over the marble platform and stands directly under the new clock. At the same time., a brown cat jumps over the platform and settles down by the grave, curling into a sphere. This evening scene snapped at ten minutes to six. See photo.