I had to do some research for an article on Chandni Chowk and went there in the afternoon.I was walking or rather wandering in Matia Mahal when a rickshaw waala came and insisted I go with him because he knew Purani Delhi very well!
I asked him how much and he replied in English, “As you like.”
He was convinced I’m a firang and wanted to show me each landmark.
After that I had a fun afternoon.
He took me through Dariba Kalan and showed me famous shops insisting I visit Kinari Bazar the famous Wedding market. I told him I’ve been there many times but he didn’t quite seem to believe me. Dariba was and is a famous market for jewellery. Kalan means big. Then we drove past a famous Jalebi shop which I also refused to stop and eat.
So ultimately we decided to go to ‘world famous spice market’ in Khari Baoli. He told me he would park his rickshaw and take me on top of it.
“Madam Woh famous church hai,” as we entered Princess JahanAra’s famous Chandni Chowk and passed opposite the Methodist Church.
Chowk, or the Moonlight Square, was designed and established by Princess Jahanara Begum, Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter, in 1650 CE. Originally containing 1,560 shops, the bazaar was 40 yards wide by 1,520 yards long.
The bazaar was shaped as a square was given elegance by the presence of a pool in the centre of the complex. The pool shimmered in the moonlight, a feature which was perhaps responsible for its name.
I was now feeling like Princess JahanAra’s alter ego taking a round of her famous market as I emerged into the square. Only difference being it was now a farce of what she created.
“Yeh Sis Ganj Gurudwara hai,” my self appointed guide told me.
I decided to tease him ,” aap ne Sunehri masjid ke baare mein nahin bataya.”
” Jab uske nazdeek aayenge tab Na batainge!”
So we passed that. Time also has bypassed it.
Now it’s hemmed in by every side by shops so difficult to photograph and looks very tawdry.
“Woh dekhiye Mughal zamaane ka Jain Mandir hai,” he showed me. I’m not convinced of it being Mughal I tell him. ” Internet kijiye,” he says.
“Madam Ghalib Ki haveli chaliye,” and is very offended because I say id rather go to Khari Baoli.
We pass Ballimaran Gali.
“Aap kahan Ki hain, yahan ki to nahin lagti.”
After much protests he agrees to accept I’m from UP and I tell him I’m writing a book on Delhi.
“Kitni kitab likho hai,” he asks.
“Ek ‘l I tell him.
” Only Ek?” He looks very disappointed.
But we move on passing Chunamal Ki haveli which he shows me.
” Yeh Ghanta ghar hai,”
But that was broken I say, and he says, ” uski Yaadgar hai yeh!” He has an answer for everything .
I’ve forgotten to tell you he showed me Town Hall and I asked him if he knew about Begum ka Bagh? “Woh Kya hai?” So I had an opportunity to show off some of my knowledge too!
“Woh Jahanara Begum ne banwaaya tha. Angrezon ne Tod diya. Town Hall wahin bana.”
Now we are reaching end of Moonlit Road.
I can see the gate of Fatehpuri Masjid. Once upon a time before Aurangzeb made the Barbican one could see from Lahori Gate of Qila till here. In fact nobles had to dismount here and walk to the Diwan e Aam.
We park the rickshaw and walk to Khari Baoli. It’s a nightmare of traffic, hand pulled carts laden with bags and labour carrying bags on their backs.
Somehow we reach inside The entrance of what is Asia’s largest spice market. Though there are shops outside from the chatta pattern it seemed to me that in colonial India this must have been an organised market.
It’s name comes from a water well that was situated here. A small Baoli was made around it under Islam Shah, Sher Shah’s son in 16th century but as its water was brackish it didn’t flourish and earned the name Khari Baoli or brackish well.it is behind Fatehpuri masjid.
A huge square colonial structure was built here at some point of time where the spice traders have their shops. I walked around it.
I couldn’t stop sneezing
In the middle there are haphazard shops, houses etc .
But the best part is the gorgeous view of the Fatehpuri mosque. It’s build directly behind the Done.
We walk to the roof and I love the cupolas there and pose in front of it.Dharmendra from Basti in UP was making hing which he said comes from Afghanistan.
From on top I get a lovely view of the old city.
We walk around the roof and both of us pose for photographs We walk down and I buy some dry fruits from Afgan shop owned by Ajay Chopra. His grandfather came from Afghanistan post partition and opened this shop here .Did you know there are so many types of Pepper?
My rickshaw waala wants to take me to other places but I’m getting late so we exchange numbers and I leave with promise of hiring him again soon.
I’ve reached the parking lot.
And no tho he mistook me for a firang and spoke in English he didn’t overcharge. He was very happy with the 300₹ I gave him for 1 1/2 hours of driving me around.