The gateway built of lakhori bricks still has tall wooden doors with recessed iron-studded design. It leads to haphazardly-built houses on the same plot. Deep inside is a girls’ school, Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, number 2, Zeenat Mahal.
Anil Kumar Pandey, a resident of nearby Durga Mandir Gali, informs: “Our elders used to tell us that there was a tunnel starting from the mahal which went up to the Red Fort.”
Adds Firoz Bakht Ahmed, a heritage activist, “According to Basheeruddin Ahmed’s ‘Waqueat-e-Darul Hukumat-e-Delhi’, it used to be a massive haveli spread over almost four acres when Zeenat Mahal resided here. There was a huge marble fountain with a few hujras (cabins). Besides, there was a huge cellar.” Things started declining after the Revolt of 1857. The school building came up sometime in the 1970s.
“Zeenat Mahal was known to be a domineering, formidable and tenacious woman with Rock of Gibraltar-like determination,” he added. Something the girl students might draw inspiration from.