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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Delhiwale: Reading Hauz Rani

Getting intimate with a neighbourhood through its signage

delhi Updated: Sep 02, 2019 15:30 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Clinic-cum-home of Yunani medical practitioner Maulvi Chishti in Delhi
Clinic-cum-home of Yunani medical practitioner Maulvi Chishti in Delhi (HT Photo )

At first glance, this South Delhi village seems very unremarkable as a cluster of ordinary lanes and dwellings.

But like so much else in Delhi, Hauz Rani reveals its magic slowly but surely.

A simple stroll along the street going past Badi Masjid offers an indication of beauty in the shape and content of signboards. Painted in often fascinating fonts, the boards provide tantalising clues to the neighbourhood’s inner life.

Of course, you can’t avoid noticing all those “To Let” posters basically targeted at young single professionals who work in nearby malls and hospitals. And if you turn up in the morning when most shops are closed, you’ll spot a painted shutter giving directions to the local eatery Ibrahim Nahari (sic)—whose nahari, a local informs, is as delicious as those found in the dish’s birthplace, which is Old Delhi. Another food shack proclaims poetically--Hukm Mere Aka (What’s the order, my master), the phrase evocative of the story of Ali Baba and his djinn. The shack promises home delivery as well as “sitting available.”

Then there’s the clinic-cum-home of Yunani medical practitioner Maulvi Chishti. The English signboard atop the door offers to heal spiritual problems through amulets and “upri ilaz ”, whatever that may be.

Though many signs hint at an earlier way of life, this impression is dispelled with hoardings inviting you to be an expert in spoken English. Add to this a banner entangled amid power cables, lamely promising “Unlimited Internet.”

The most poignant signage is simply a crudely sprawled “Gas Walla Qasim” at the shop of a cooking gas supplier. Nearby is a post pointing to job vacancies for packing supervisors and helpers between the ages of 18-45. Educational qualifications range from illiteracy to high school grads.

Before exiting the village you’ll no doubt stop briefly outside F-2-F (fat-to-fit) gym. Its glass door is plastered with photos of the bare-chested gym owner—one of them shows him posing daringly on rail tracks. This morning, the gym is empty save for a woman in veil, running on the treadmill.

First Published: Sep 02, 2019 15:30 IST