Delhiwale: This way to Ajmeri Gate

Published on Jul 02, 2022 06:18 AM IST
  • This rainy afternoon, three to four boys are playing cricket inside the gateway’s sprawling premises. The outer wall is stinking of urine. A few tandoori rotis are lying abandoned on the ledge of the wall, soaked wet with rain. Giant ants are running along purposefully.
One of the 14 Mughal-era gateways to punctuate the Walled City’s wall, the graceful Ajmeri Gate today is like a queen without her palace.
One of the 14 Mughal-era gateways to punctuate the Walled City’s wall, the graceful Ajmeri Gate today is like a queen without her palace.
ByMayank Austen Soofi, New Delhi

As part of our ‘Walled City dictionary’ series that explores the names of Old Delhi places

Every morning at 6.10 Shatabdi Express numbered 12015 speeds out of New Delhi railway station for Ajmer. But the rail tracks don’t run through Ajmeri Gate, which lies outside the railway station, towards its “Ajmeri Gate side.”

This venerable stone gateway originally signposted the way to the aforementioned pilgrim town. One of the 14 Mughal-era gateways to punctuate the Walled City’s wall, the graceful Ajmeri Gate today is like a queen without her palace. The wall it guarded is gone. The gateway has transmuted into a traffic island. One road heads to the railway station; another to GB Road red light; and the third to Hauz Qazi.

This rainy afternoon, three to four boys are playing cricket inside the gateway’s sprawling premises. The outer wall is stinking of urine. A few tandoori rotis are lying abandoned on the ledge of the wall, soaked wet with rain. Giant ants are running along purposefully. A koyal’s melodious twittering is also compensating for the rude traffic sounds. Suddenly a man’s shout shoots out from the adjacent auto parking: “Baap re ustad!”

An aficionado of old buildings might diligently study the gateway’s turrets, niches, and battlements. The rest of us might be more taken in by the multitudinous life that flows around the silent monument. Two women in gowns and dupatta are holding each other’s arms. A man in torn pants is chatting loudly to himself. A labourer in kurta and lungi is hobbling along with three huge cartons on his head. A brown dog is snoozing under an omelette cart. A rickshaw puller is waiting for business (see Nandu Bhai’s photo). A khaki-clad beat constable is reading a hoarding on “plastic ke vikalp.” A shining new plaque installed by the gateway’s east side commemorates the naming of the congested road ahead — going to Hauz Qazi Chowk — after the late Shri Harichand Verma (“ex-chairman, KMSC, Government of Delhi”).

Minutes pass, and the rain intensifies. The cricketers inside the gateway huddle under a peepal tree. Shatabdi Express reaches Ajmer by noon. That town too has a Mughal-era gateway. It originally signposted the way to Delhi, and is called Dilli Gate.

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