Tucked away in the niches of the Chelmsford Road towards New Delhi railway station are places with interesting past. One of them is a last century creation named and used on the lines of Mughal era sarais.
As your enter a lane besides the Sri Lanka Buddhist Pilgrims' Rest, set amidst a sprawling open area is an old weathered building housing Maulana Azad Education Foundation. This was originally the 'Lady Hardinge Serai' (tourist inn) complete with resting place for both humans and animals.
"The governor in British times used to rest here before boarding his train at the New Delhi railway station. But not much details are available," says MW Ansari, Foundation's secretary/ADG. The 1939 vintage building - designed by AG Shoesmith, who was part of Lutyen's team - has three-layered arched entrance and is set around several courts. It continued to be used as a transit hostel before left neglected post-Independence.
Then in the 1970s, it was converted into a women's hostel. "Begum Abida Ahmed, wife of then President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, was the patron of the hostel for Muslim girls in the name of Balika Chaman," informs AP Jain, a resident of neighbouring Basant Road.
It was in 2002, that the government of India turned it into a building for the 'Maulana Azad Education Foundation' under the ministry of minority affairs. The building also houses offices of the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India and the National Backward Classes Finances & Development Corporation.