Monday, February 09, 2009

Photo Essay – Purani Dilli on a High

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Purani Dilli on a High

Allah is closer to Old Delhi rooftops.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

One afternoon I went knocking around houses at Matia Mahal in Old Delhi asking the residents, "May I please climb to your rooftop?" I was refused. Folks thought I was crazy. But I had my reason. I wanted to see how Jama Masjid looks from rooftops.

While thak-thaking around, I met a paan-walla who claimed that his terrace faced Jama Masjid's Gate no. 1. Bingo. We became fast friends and after discussing girls, sex and politics, I asked him, "Can I see Dilli from your terrace?"

The guy grew somber. He had women in the house and I was a man.

I walked ahead hoping to find a women-less home.

Finally I met Mr Uzair Ahmad. Within five minutes I knew everything about him: studying at Daryaganj's Somerville School; mad about Shah Rukh Khan; 'happy birthday' on June 7th; and his favorite dish – ammi's masala dosa. Now the real thing: Mr Ahmad's chhat (rooftop) is the highest in Old Delhi.

Obviously, he became my latest best friend.

Mr Ahmad was nice. He invited me in, took me up in an in-house elevator(!), and there we were: at Old Delhi's top-altitude terrace.

Mashallah, Kya scene tha!

The world was below us. A few terraces away stood the stony Jama Masjid, looking lonely amidt the concrete of Delhi's unplanned modern architecture. Beyond it the golden dome of Gurdwara Seesganj. On the right, Red Fort. Backside: the Connaught Place skyscrapers. Down: Old Delhi people carrying on with domestic lives in their courtyards.

I got distracted by the last.

My naked eyes watched the purdah women of these courtyards. A veiled lady who was kneeling down by her balcony darted inside the instant she spotted me. While a few chhats away, a kabutar-baaz (the pigeon man) went on hurrrruuuing his pigeons. The kabutars would flutter their wings, fly away, soar up in the sky, and come back on the kabutar-baaz's roof. In silence.

Pity Mr Ahmad. He had spent all his life in this house and so was immune to its rooftop views. Instead of swooning like me, he cried out to his friends - Sameer and Gullu. They were sunbathing on a lower rooftop. On another terrace, Mr Ahmad's cousins continued flying their kites. In silence.

It was all so otherworldly, like being in a Himalayan hill resort. The city noise had faded to a distant hum. The air had grown thinner, cooler. And Jama Masjid was just an arm-length's away. Almost.

Yes, Allah is closer to Old Delhi rooftops.

Not long after we came down. Back where we belonged. A little further from the God.

You may also enjoy such views Just tap-tap on doors and request to be escorted to the rooftop. Be patient. Someone will agree.

Rooftop paradise, with Mr Ahmad

Purani Dilli on a High

Jama Masjid!

Purani Dilli on a High

So close!

Purani Dilli on a High

Sameer and Gullu, Mr Ahmad's friends

Purani Dilli on a High

Dilli's kite runner?

Purani Dilli on a High

City getaway

Purani Dilli on a High

Hello birdies

Purani Dilli on a High

Our kabutar-baaz

Purani Dilli on a High

Can you spot Seesganj?

Purani Dilli on a High

Leave her alone

Purani Dilli on a High

13 comments:

Anubhav said...

Have seen Old Delhi from the tall minarete at Jama Masjid. But, I guess seeing the masjid from a height would be also cool.

Are you serious about the in-house elevator? The stair cases are so narrow in old delhi homes and there is barely any space to put-up a lift room.

Along with the high "chhatt", the elevator would be equally thrilling.

m a v e r | c k said...

Heeeyyyyy...... u mentioned Somerville School Daryaganj, that was the first school I went to (actually the second,the first was "Jai Jawan Jai Kisan") before moving to Vikas Puri's Oxford....

One of the many reasons why I simply love your blog, you never know what surprise you are about to get.... man!!!! do I wish to be in that world again....

Once a noble past time, flying kites, and kabootar bazz; people now associate with aawaragiri... What a shame we can no longer enjoy simple pleasures of life, that we now have to seek malls and theaters to have a good time... :[

redkazim said...

Ah... I live in a concrete jungle called Karachi.

BRUISED INDIAN said...

Aaahhhh... Meri Dilli!! Miss it...

urbanGYPSY... said...

wow!
read it in HT... bt getting to see it all through your eyes... all these impeccably picturesque places...hidden somewhere among the highrises coming up......delight!!!pure delight mayank!

thnx fr sharin! :))

btw...wen r u coming to west delhi? ahem ahem... my place doesnt hv a lift... bt stairs shud be fyn enuf...lolzzz!
n thr r lotsa kabootars doin MASAKKALI on my roof too... i'll play d kabootarbaaz then!

err...
no lolzzz......m serious!

shelmes said...

Cool post, definitely worth knocking on a few doors for!

urbanGYPSY... said...

don't seem to be getn an answer! :P

Mayank Austen Soofi said...

Oh, sorry Urban Gypsy for replying late. Thanks for liking this post. Yes, I will love to come to West Delhi. It will be great to be on your roof. Please email me: mayankaustensoofi@gmail.com
or call me: 9818-361619

Monika said...

Purani Dilli, what a mess!

Milan Kuchhal said...

Though named as Purani Dilli, yet it is new and young........

MILAN KUCHHAL
9891205786

Anonymous said...

Hey Soofi, like your take on things and I can almost smell where u takin' it from buddy, or maybe even takin' it to.

The place has character not hidden by, but woven into the colourful cacophony of its sights and smells, from the butchers AYYYYY SaLLeeeems to the countless chickens fried outside the Flora restaurant each evening, the place is still as delectable as the Firni sold in earthern katoras under the huge tree past the left turn for Karims.

Keep it up dude, make my life miserable for being so darned far away.

Reeta Skeeter said...

That makes the two of us...I go about in Old Delhi asking people to let me see their homes...ppl think I am crazy...YES about Delhi :)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic,brilliant work done Boss !!!


I have live there for 28 yrs of my life and the way you describe the Old delhi it was like reliving those memorable moments.

Those who have lived in Delhi 6 will never get the same feeling anywhere they go.. the atmosphere is really really cool.