Delhiwale: The changing Shahjahanabad

Surveying the old giving way to new
A devotee of old architecture might feel helpless walking around here, and experience a sense of profound loss.
A devotee of old architecture might feel helpless walking around here, and experience a sense of profound loss.
Published on Jan 22, 2022 03:41 AM IST
Copy Link
ByMayank Austen Soofi

It is as if these patches of sky could no longer hold together. As if they had given up, falling down here and there over the city. This is one of the ways of looking at the blue tarpaulin sheets that shroud parts of the Walled City of Shahjahanabad these days.

On this cold afternoon, the main market street between Tiraha Behram Khan and Chitli Qabar Chowk is filled beyond capacity with shoppers (mostly maskless). The shop windows are filled with distractions—laces, dupattas, sheets and lehengas. Nobody bothers to look up, and yet, the tarpaulins hanging on several facades are quite a sight. Apart from their intense colors (often in blue), they are evidence of ongoing constructions, and have been wrapped about the upcoming structures to prevent the dust from spreading around, as one shopkeeper says.

The tarpaulins tell it most starkly — Purani Dilli is changing furiously fast. Old buildings are being replaced by new ones. Take this draped edifice-in-progress on the market road, for instance. It is standing next to a time-worn building with arched doors, wooden windows and intricately carved balconies. If one wonders how long this faded edifice will be allowed to stand, one does not really wonder about the look of the adjoining veiled building coming up. Its shiny cousins are already springing up in the historic quarter, and they all look similar — monolithic blocks of residential apartments. The turning towards Gali Kala Mahal, at Kamra Bangash, is landmarked by such a multi-storey tower of flats, which would not look out of place in a Ghaziabad suburb.

Some distance away, the cramped alley at Kucha Tara Chand is resounding with the twak-twak of labourers hammering with their miscellaneous tools. There, one construction site is barricaded by an elaborate blue and yellow tarpaulin. Right next to it stands a beautiful, old building with a most arresting doorway. A spectator might be haunted by the mystery of what old beautiful building used to stand behind the tarpaulin.

A devotee of old architecture might feel helpless walking around here, and experience a sense of profound loss. This sentiment might not necessarily be shared by those who live in the Walled City. This reporter personally knows scores of households that had to leave the Walled City for modern and spacious apartments, so as to accommodate their expanding families. They might see the new multi-stories as a necessary convenience.

One of the most poignant illustrations of this ongoing change lies on a lane near Kalan Masjid, where a construction site is partly covered with a giant sheet of tarpaulin. The building appears to be complete, though it is still scaffolded with wooden beams. The finished wall is paved with what looks to be stone tiles. Just beside it stands a Mughal structure adorned with a vaulted arch of red sandstone, its surface sculpted with patterns of flowers. Both buildings are fused into each other, except for a thin vertical line of slim lakhori bricks of yesteryear. The bricks seem to be squeezed between the old and new. This sight (see photo) is today emerging as the most defining symbol of contemporary Old Delhi — yesterday and tomorrow, flirting with each other. Be a witness of this shift in time, before Shahjahanabad changes forever.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • As per the resolution, the Jammu district magistrate is required to ensure that no such devices are played within the MC jurisdiction between 10 pm and 6 am. (HT PHOTO)

    Jammu MC passes resolution to remove illegal loudspeakers from religious, public places

    In a move aimed at reducing noise pollution and providing relief to people, especially students, ailing and the elderly, the Jammu municipal corporation on Tuesday passed a resolution for the removal of loudspeakers and public address systems operating without permission from religious and public places, evoking criticism from the rival Congress. Corporators from the Opposition stiffly opposed the decision and said that it will vitiate peaceful atmosphere of Jammu, known for brotherhood.

  • Security forces had set up a checkpoint at Chandpora in Budgam and arrested the two terrorist associates, who were identified as Zahid Ahmad Sheikh and Sahil Bashir Dar. (Image for representational purpose)

    J&K: Two overground workers of LeT arrested in Budgam

    Security forces on Tuesday arrested two overground workers of Lashkar-e-Taiba from Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said. “Police, along with security forces, have arrested two terrorist associates of proscribed terror outfit LeT in Budgam. Incriminating materials, explosives and ammunition were also recovered from their possession,” a police spokesman said.

  • During the pandemic, Mir Iqbal came up with the slogan ‘Respect all, suspect all’, earning the appreciation of the Prime Minister during a videoconference with select panchayat members. (HT Photo)

    Kashmir panchayat member goes the extra mile to implement government schemes

    A 37-year-old panchayat member from north Kashmir's Narwav area, Mir Iqbal, is reputed to go the extra mile and not just figuratively, as he moves from village to village trying to solve people's problems and implement government schemes on the grassroots level. A post-graduate from Kashmir University, Iqbal, joined politics in 2011 as a young Congress worker. The Narwav block, spread over 56 square kilometres, comprises 17 panchayats.

  • Himachal Pradesh chief minister Jai Ram Thakur on Tuesday announced to open SDM offices at Rakkar and Kotla Behar and block development office at Dadasiba in Jaswan Pragpur assembly constituency in Kangra. (Aqil Khan/Hindustan Times File)

    Himachal: SDM offices to come up at Rakkar, Kotla Behar in Kangra

    Himachal chief minister Jai Ram Thakur on Tuesday announced to open SDM offices at Rakkar and Kotla Behar and block development office at Dadasiba in Jaswan Pragpur assembly constituency in Kangra. He was addressing a public meeting at Pragpur after inaugurating and laying foundation stones of 39 development projects worth 190 crore. He slammed the Congress' decision of appointing four working presidents in a small state like Himachal Pradesh.

  • AAP leader Manish Sisodia being welcomed in Shimla on Tuesday. (Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times)

    AAP slams Jai Ram govt over deteriorating education system; baseless allegations, says BJP

    The Aam Aadmi Party, which is trying to make inroads into the bipolar politics in Himachal, on Tuesday announced that education and healthcare will be its main poll planks in the state assembly elections scheduled for later this year. AAP leader and Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday interacted with students and teachers to get the first-hand account of the education standards in Himachal Pradesh.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 18, 2022