Delhiwale: The roof without that view
While other roofs might have a view of Jama Masjid domes, the roof of a house in Old Delhi’s Chitli Qabar in all its delicious ordinariness seems to have escaped from the Walled City stereotypes.Updated: Oct 30, 2018 13:35 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The moon seems so close at hand that it looks fake, like a crude theatre prop. As if somebody pasted it on a sheet of black paper, which the theatre audience is supposed to imagine as the sky.
All around are multi-storey buildings.
There is no monument visible, which is surprising because this is Old Delhi.
Such is the view from the private roof of a three-storey mansion in the Walled City’s Chitli Qabar.
Old Delhi roofs have been a part of artistic imagination for some time now. They have appeared in novels, photography books and also, very picturesquely, in Hindi movies. And they almost always have a great view of the Jama Masjid. But why doesn’t anybody sing of the roofs with no view of that 17th century monument?
Indeed, this roof has a much stronger claim to what may be crudely called an average Old Delhi roof. This is a place not visited by tourists or film crews, and is as ordinary and cozy as any homely space. It has a washing machine, a washbasin, a silbatta (stone) to grind chutneys, a row of plants including roses and a wash line strung with bed sheets, salwars and pants.
The roof is quite large and has a set of stairs going down to another slightly lower part. Three dish antennas are fixed on one of the walls. The surrounding view is of scores of buildings. This could really be any congested part of Delhi. Some of the buildings are taller and, on the highest one, the roof is lit up with white lights—you can see a bunch of boys there. They might be having a party.
While other roofs might have a view of Jama Masjid domes, this roof in all its delicious ordinariness seems to have escaped from the Walled City stereotypes. And this is its charm.
But just then you hear a gurgling sound on the unlit part of the roof—oh, here’s a kabutar khana (bird enclosures) for the pigeons. Just the most tired cliché they always show in Bollywood songs depicting Old Delhi roofs.
First Published: Oct 30, 2018 13:33 IST