City Hangout - Gali Teeke Wali, Old Delhi

City Hangout – Gali Teeke Wali, Old Delhi

City Hangout - Gali Teeke Wali, Old Delhi

Doorway lane.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Sixty-paces-long, the narrow Gali Teeke Wali is a tributary of the much larger Gali Choori Walan. The lane is stamped with a few “car body parts” shops, along with a few printing presses. Sometimes a sweating labourer is seen hauling a mountainous stack of paper sheets on his bent back. This afternoon, the primary sound is of a printing press machine’s rhythmic rattle.

People popping up infrequently along the street don’t have much to say on its name except that “the naam has passed down from the old times.” A woman in black burqa suggests that the lane must have originally been the “address of Brahmins who would apply sacred teeka on their forehead.”

Ok, now to the blind alley’s most soulful side. Gali Teeke Wali has one of the Walled City’s most beautiful doorways. It is exquisite but in a minimalist sort of style. Curiously, nobody—not even any guidebook writer–gushes about this dark wood darwaza. That doesn’t mean that it lies unloved, as is the kismet of many of its cousins in the historic quarter (the exquisite doorways of Gali School Wali will make you weep with their irreversible dilapidation).

The doorway is excellently preserved. Its two “kiwad” are ornamented with hefty metal chain latches. An arched taak adorns the top. The wooden sill at the bottom is partly shrivelled, no doubt a consequence of endless monsoons and heatwaves. The adjoining stone columns are sculpted with impressions of flowers and leaves. The only thing not vintage-worthy about the door is its little bell. Now Irfan from the next-door printing press sits down in front of the doorway for a brief chai break—see photo.

Other doors in the gali are remarkable in their own way. Indeed, their survival acquires intenser preciousness on recalling that a similarly narrow street nearby had its beautiful doorway razed down four years ago to make way for a multi-storey (the obituary had appeared in these pages).

Responding actively to new modes of living, the Mughal-era quarter is undergoing drastic alterations to meet modernity. Even so, some places in the Walled City are holding on to souvenirs of everyday past, as in this street. One curiosity lingers—just how is the world like behind this doorway. Lets ring the doorbell.