September 8th, 2012
It’s a fairly pleasant Saturday morning. All of us gather at exit number 2 of the Chandni Chowk Metro Station. Rohan is late (as usual) and we can’t start the walk until he comes because he’s got the route maps printed for everyone. Friends from college, their friends from outside college, and some new friends who read about us online, join us on our very first walk of the Delhi Dallying Walk Series. 30 people, brimming nervous energy. And we begin with Walk 1.
Walk 1 is interesting because it takes you through the residential pockets around Chandni Chowk, sharing with you a slice of the vernacular life in Old Delhi. It consciously misses the touristy spots, to introduce you to the more everyday things of Shahjahanabad. While moving from the eastern end of Chandni Chowk towards the west, through the galis, it loosely weaves together a chronologically sound narrative, with bits of lip-smackingly good food thrown in.
Summarizing, from the treasurers’ haveli in Gali Khazanchi to the beautiful Jain mohalla of Naughara, we explored the 17th century grandeur of Shahjahan’s reign (along with some 21st century jalebis and samosas). While moving through Maliwara towards Nai Sadak, the remnants of the Maratha siege and the mutiny of 1857 became apparent. Ballimaran and Mirza Ghalib’s Haveli are a testament to the days after the revolt, and also home to the famous Hakims of the Sharifkhani clan, which made for some very interesting haveli hopping.
Coming back onto Chandni chowk, after a small breakfast of kachouri-aloo and the elusive Nagori Halwa, we explored a part of Lala Chunamal’s stunning haveli (a little hushed as we did not seek permission from the current tenants!), who happened to be one of the most influential characters during the revolt. Entering the bustle of Khari Baoli, we went up to the hidden flower market of Fatehpuri, explored the fascinating view from the eerily enchanting Garodia spice market, and concluded at the recently completed, austerely modern Polyclinic for the Destitute at Lahori Gate, leaving everyone to ponder about what modernity really means for the contemporary old city.
Walk 1 is a great way to start a conversation with Shahjahanabad, which is a city within a city – one which we tend to be oblivious to, but one which enchants and entices.