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Delhiwale: An alley in Old Delhi

A piece of architecture containing the Walled City’s contemporary essence
The other much smaller window is even more tragic: it is blocked with concrete.
Published on Sep 25, 2021 01:07 AM IST
By Mayank Austen Soofi

The wall’s blue colour has faded unevenly. In some places, the patches look like a clear blue sky. In other places, they look as if the sky were shrouded over with smog. The blue though doesn’t cover the entire wall, and soon gives way to large expanses of bare ochre-coloured bricks. While cobwebbed windows and twice-locked doors stand as the wall’s gloomier centrepieces.

This wall runs along a side-alley in Old Delhi’s Jatwada that passes under an arched gateway and disappears into a private residence.

This afternoon, absolute silence is reigning here. Even the pigeons are quiet. One of the large windows framed into the wall has its panes made of wood instead of the customary glass, as if it were purposely forbidden for the inhabitants to look at the world outside. The other much smaller window is even more tragic: it is blocked with concrete.

The structure isn’t of an old vintage—these bare bricks on the wall are seen across the city and its suburbs—but the arches, the doors and the windows illustrate graceful sensibilities of a bygone architecture. On lingering long, you notice in a part of the still-painted wall that some of its surviving blue has peeled away, exposing the bricks underneath. And now a startling discovery—the naked section is composed of the slimmer lakhori bricks, the building material of the Walled City’s older mansions. This suggests that the wall, mostly consisting of modern-day bricks, was originally very old and was renovated/rebuilt at a later date, and not with the same material. The little portion of lakhori remnants is clearly an overlooked leftover, which shows that while much of the tangible past has been uprooted with time, some traces of it are accidentally conserved within the present.

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The lane faces Masjid Anarwali—a mosque named after a pomegranate tree. Turns out the tree no longer survives. And yet, that pomegranate’s recollection continues to live in an existing landmark. Paired with the neighbouring wall, both these edifices aptly contain the essence of the contemporary Walled City—old memories embedded in new concrete.

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