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Delhiwale: Living in an old mansion with secret tunnel, locked rooms

Named after an owner who traded in silver, Chandiwali Haveli is now a curious combination of ethereal and ugly

delhi Updated: Oct 31, 2017 15:11 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Chandiwali Haveli in Old Delhi’s Katra Khushal Rai neighbourhood n is peopled with families that run small shops in the area.
Chandiwali Haveli in Old Delhi’s Katra Khushal Rai neighbourhood n is peopled with families that run small shops in the area.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

Chandiwali Haveli in Old Delhi’s Katra Khushal Rai neighbourhood is an extraordinary mansion. Though dilapidated, it is home to many families. Anyone can enter this picturesque building through the main gate.

A beautiful door on one side of the courtyard stands locked. You can easily see what lies behind it because the panel is broken. The sight is intriguing — a disorderly combination of the ethereal and the ugly. Intricately carved pillars are wrapped in blue plastic. Kellogg’s cardboard cartons litter the broken floor. A far-off corner is packed with white sacks that usually hold cement. The plaster has peeled off in some places, exposing the old Lakhori bricks underneath. Stacks of plywood rest idly.

The rest of the mansion is peopled with families that run small shops in the area. Anil Kumar, who supplies jewellery boxes to Kinari Bazaar, has been living here for 20 years. “It’s a very, very large haveli, and some rooms have been locked since the time I came here.”

Turning towards the courtyard, he says, “Until a few years ago, it would always be filled with children, but now many families have moved out of Old Delhi. One family went to Jaipur…” He adds that we are standing over a tehkhana, which has a secret tunnel that goes all the way to Red Fort. Ah, that old story again! Almost all old buildings in Old Delhi are said to have a tunnel to the fort.

A shopkeeper outside says the haveli takes its name from its earlier owner, Brij Krishna Chandiwala, who traded in silver.

Soon, the haveli is visited by the elderly Ali Muhammed. A scrap dealer, he stops daily. He says the haveli hasn’t changed at all since the time he remembers it. It’s one place where the past lies preserved.