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Row of eateries for travellers

delhi Updated: Nov 11, 2012 00:46 IST
Nivedita Khandekar
Nivedita Khandekar
Hindustan Times
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Lots of neem trees, keekar here and there, water trough for horses, oxen and camels, two open wells and a row of arched stone rooms on the two sides of a single-lane road through a smallish medieval village.

Sounds like a world long ago, right?

Till about 1960, this was how today's busy market Yusuf Sarai was and had been for several decades before that. Aurobindo Road was then called Qutub Road and was a dusty road used by horses and camels, not to mention livestock of farmers. People going from Shahjahanabad to Mehrauli took this road.

The village was spread across the two sides of the road. "These row of shops stand at the place where the Sarai stood. My grandfather and even my father had seen it and told us about it," Kailash Sharma, who runs a small shop right behind the erstwhile Sarai, informs pointing out in the direction.

Coming from AIIMS side towards Yusuf Sarai, one can find this row of shops starting at the edge of the left turn road soon after the New Delhi Municipal Council jurisdiction ends.

As the name suggests, Yusuf Sarai was a roadside inn (medieval equivalent of a highway dhaba). "Unlike many other Sarais, this was not a place where people lived and prayed during their journey. It was a row of small eateries and retail shops for the travellers," said Shyam Sunder Sharma, who remembers the stone, brick and mortar of the dilapidated Mughal-era Sarai from his childhood days.