There are many a heritage trails in old Delhi area. What is today the old city for us, was the capital city of Mughal empire, called Shahjahanabad. Built in the middle of the 17the century, it is full of old buildings, traditional food shops, traditional crafts & professions which are dying out. This walking tour combines sites of monumental heritage with food stops. Hence the title ‘Heritage Walk & Street Food’. Our group met at Jama Masjid, one of the most famous landmarks of Delhi & negotiated our way to Sitaram Bazaar, the end point for this heritage trail. Getting there can be quite a task though. Delhi Metro has made the old city easily accessible, but once out of the metro, get ready to face the madness here. The nearest metro station is Chawri Bazaar & the road leading from Chawri Bazaar to Jama Masjid is perpetually jam packed. There are rickshaws, hand pulled carts, scooters, cars, dogs & a sea of humanity all trying to keep going. One wrong move & the traffic comes to a standstill!!
But where there is a will, there is a way. And all of us, on hungry stomachs were motivated enough to brave it. Our first food stop was Jain Coffee House, a small shop in a complex called Raghuganj in Chawri Bazaar. This place is known for fruit sandwiches, shakes & cold coffee! One can have mango/ grape/ cheeku/ apple/ pineapple/ vegetable/ samosa sandwiches. The cold coffee here is an absolute delight & an excellent combination with sandwiches. Somewhat of a contrast to the sweet flavor was the fare at Hiralal Chaat Bhandar. They are known for kulle or kuliya ki chaat, a platter of which looks colourful & devilishly tempting. This preparation has a base which could be of any fruit or vegetable like potato, tomato, mango, cucumber, watermelon, or even banana. The base is carved like a bowl & then filled with boiled gram, spices and pomegranate & topped with a dash of lemon. Just imagine all the colours! And it has a tangy, spicy taste!
From here the group visited a small mosque called Ruknuddaulah Masjid. Practically nothing is known about this mosque. So much so, we don’t even find it mentioned in the famous Zafar Hasan list of monuments. However we do know that it was built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar Shah II. Still, it is a well kept place, maintained by a local gentleman from the neighbourhood of Churiwalan, Mr. Nuruddin. He is a darner by profession & extremely welcoming. He is delighted if anyone expresses an interest in his mosque. Further from here, we wove our way through the traffic to reach Ashok Chaat Bhandar near Chawri Bazaar metro station. Here, we had platefuls of golgappas, prepared like chaat. Before eating many more, we made a brief stop at Masjid Hauz Qazi, practically hidden away behind the numerous shop hoardings. This is the mosque which gives the chowk its name.
The last food stop was the legendary Kuremal Kulfiwala. His fame has encouraged others to open kulfi shops near the original one, but they don’t match his quality & variety. One gets all kinds of kulfis that can be imagined: imli/tamarind, phalsa/grewia, Jamun, Paan/betel leaf (we find many Indians chewing paan regularly), Rose, shareefa/custard apple, lichi/lychee & kulfi stuffed in mango fruit as well! Just a little further from the kulfi shop was the last point of our walk, a traditional haveli in Sitaram Bazaar. We reached here towards dusk & the dalans were all lighted up, reminding one of yesteryears. We climbed to the terrace of the haveli & could see pigeons flying on formations & following the sharp whistles of their trainers. Pigeon rearing is a very popular past time in old Delhi & one could see a flock with their owner on almost every rooftop.
(posted by Kanika Singh & Awadhesh Tripathi, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)