The city of Old Delhi or Purani Dilli certainly wears the charm of the olden days. It retains this charm in its centuries old cuisinies preseved by generations of families (like the Karim’s, Paranthe wali Gali), its markets such as Daryaganj, the Khari Baoli (Asia’s largest spice market), its old monuments (Jama Masjid, Red Fort). Build by the Mughals in the 17th century as Shajahanabad, a walled city, it is also the birthplace of the beautiful language Urdu. It is a popular setting in the books of many acclaimed authors such as Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Anita Desai’s In Custody, Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, to name a few.
Old Delhi is very alive and thriving as it yeild its charm to us although a bit indolently. The easiest way to commute to this almost fabled city is through the Chawari Bazar and Chandani Chowk metro stations which are on the yellow line of Delhi Metro. It is a popular destination among school and university kids for its street food such as Daulat ki Chaat, Paranthe wali Gali, its cheap Sunday Book Market in Daryaganj and also its wholesale book market.
Old Delhi boasts of being the dwelling place of the famous Urdu and Persian-language poet Mirza Ghalib; his Haveli once in utter neglect has been restored and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and is now a popular destination among his admirers and Urdu lovers. It is located in Balimaaran on the Gali Qasim Jaan and many trips are organized on Ghalib’s anniversaries as well as other days.
Popular food joints such as Dominos and McDonald’s have also found space on the streets of Old Delhi. After browsing through the vast Daryaganj Book Market or after the historical walks through the Jama Masjid or the Red Fort, one can always look forward to fill their tummies at these outlets. But nothing as such could beat the mouth watering street chaat or the paranthe of the Paranthe wali Gali – the essential gastronomical link to Purani Dilli’s historical heritage.
The wholesale markets of Old Delhi also have a lot to offer from school and university books to wedding cards to bathroom fixtures. One can always avail these goods at a discounted price. A Chor Bazaar is also operational near the Red Fort on Sundays and deals mainly in electronic goods, it could serve as a tech junkie’s haven with quality goods set at real low price.
Old Delhi’s most popular historical monuments are the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort. While the Jama Masjid is anchored at the east end of the Bazaar, the Red Fort is a short walk from the edge of the Yamuna river.
Mark Meyers in his photo journal The Gastronomy of the Eye refers to Old Delhi as “an embedded antiquity within Delhi, India.” Over the years past, Old Delhi sure has become the symbolic heart of Delhi as many call it.