City Walk - Gail Choori Walan, Old Delhi

City Walk – Gail Choori Walan, Old Delhi

City Walk - Gali Choori Walan, Old Delhi

Street of the bangle folks

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Did you know that Snow White and the seven dwarves isn’t just a fairy tale? True, those eight folks used to live in Old Delhi, here in Gali Choori Walan, the street of bangle wale.

The proof is this aged mansion. Count yourself. One, two, three… eight doors! Count the balconies above—eight. Extraordinarily elaborate cobwebs are woven along these doors. Their translucent strands seem to have been spun out of invisible air.

Passing by the doors, bookbinding manufacturer Iftikhar Ahmad (see photo) says that all the houses in this building of eight doors are empty, except for one. He points to the only door that is not locked. Himself a Choori Walan dweller, he asserts that in the old times the street was home to people who made and sold chooriyan, bangles. This assertion is backed by the venerable Ghayas, who has a shop here that repairs vintage clocks. Some other citizens, however, argue that those long-gone choori traders used to have their homes in Choori Walan, and their shops in Ballimaran.

Whatever, the street is as dense as a bazar, lined with dry cleaning shops, tea shops, eateries (Ansari Chicken Foods lately hiked up the price of its chhole bhathure plate from 25 to 30 rupees), mosques, a temple, a photo studio, garment stores, a pottery stall, a clock repairer shop, barber shops, tailoring kiosks, carpenter workshops, pharmacies, dairies, a public school, a tent house, a metalsmith workshop, guesthouses, a funeral service establishment, hardware shops, a cooking gas stove repairing shop, “document service” shops, scrap dealer warehouses, a drinking water bottle store, bawarchi kitchens, a coaching institute for school students, a “disposable items” shops… strangely, Gali Choori Walan does not have even one choori shop! As one walks ahead, the crowd in the street suddenly thins out, now no shops. This deserted stretch is flanked by old derelict walls smelling of urine, and finally ends into Chawri Bazar (this part of Choori Walan is particularly haunting at night).

The street also has very many side-lanes, one of which has an umbrical relationship to Choori Walan. It is called Gali Manihar Wali, named after the community of manihars, who, the aforementioned bookbinding manufacturer Iftikhar Ahmad says, used to work in bangle shops, employed to help the shoppers delicately slip the chooriyan over their fists and slide them on to their arms. In the old times, the manihars must have lived in Gali Manihar Wali, walking daily to work in next-door Gali Choori Walan. “That’s our guess too,” affirms an elderly gent walking along the Choori Walan.