Albeit I shifted to NOIDA, in yesteryear, the tourist spot that is going to be the cynosure of my essay, still remains physically close to me and much more closer to my heart, growing up and spending the first two decades of my life in Delhi, I learned much about its history not where I resided, but in “Chandani Chowk”. Chandani Chowk located in central Delhi is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the itineraries of international as well as national tourists. It is futile to discuss its history, as it has stood the test of time in preserving its culture, yet there is no denying that there have been some major infra structural and operational changes, but still not so much as to add it to the list of other common market places located in Delhi.
Travel for me is not just a means of respite from work, or visual delights a place has to offer, but much more than that, my affinity in it is aroused by being able to delve into the cultural history of a place with which I am not personally acquainted, thus in the process helping me get a new perspective of the world in the sense how a people do same things differently. So the context of this essay is going to be less about the details of the physical places but more about what can be picked up and learned while enjoying yourself.
I remember vividly that before the adventof Delhi metro I first used to visit the place with my father on his chetak and then in a Maruti Esteem, but now, since I can travel by myself, not that I don’t go with my parents, but whenever I go there alone and I do frequently, although having other option, I prefer the Delhi metro which has a certain feel to it, if you are a student like me, who travels in metro a lot. So as alight from the metro, and move out of the packed station, the first thing that you may observe are the various commodities ranging from posters, earphones to plastic toys, sun glasses being sold, which alludes towards the market culture of the place. As you walk further ahead, and reach a bustling main road with traffic jams like crapped up jigsaw puzzle, being solved by self-appointed traffic directors, any foreigner may feel that how could people work like this and that’s the beauty that lies in this, even with all the summer heat, the deafening honks, spat and some exchange of expletives, the people are able to maintain and over all cool and move along with the snail movement of the jam, successfully conducting their tasks, in so many times I have never seen an incident of road rage so big as worth mentioning, this although no more makes me wonder, yet still and always makes me appreciate that only here in the whole world, with a paucity of proper traffic management, roads etc. and with such a large population can things be managed to be done, have you ever heard of Chandani Chowk suffering any kind of operational loss, or decline in commercial activity due to traffic. Now this tells us a lot about the people of this place, their resilience, patience and calm.
As you pass through all this you behold the Guru Dwara Sri Sisganj Saheb, if you are first timer here, you may wonder that how come in a fully packed place like, is there an edifice of spirituality located amidst all the small shops, I am not going to go into detail of the Gurudwara itself, yet the significance of this more than two centuries old Gurudwara is what always deeply makes me revere the struggle of good, nonviolence peace and compassion against bigotry and barbarism, even up to the point of self-sacrifice, which was exactly what respected ninth Guru Shree guru Teg Bahadur ji did, to uphold all the highest values and truth in the face of those who are tyrants.
The next nearest market place to visit is the Bhagirath palace, famous for its electronics market where you can find any of the smallest to smallest electronic as well as electrical components, I myself needed to visit this market, many times for my engineering projects, not much of attraction to the tourists yet it represents the mixture of culture with technology and oh how can I forget, the one thing that is visible in every inch of this market is the one unique to us Indians, “jugad” I know any Indian would have used “jugad” verbally as well practically many times in their life, here you find people with no formal degrees or training, but knowledge theoretical as well as pragmatic, passed through generations, working on complex circuits and devices. By personal experience I can say that they can practically fix anything from old iron to transistors, they are experts yet humble and ground to earth, as an engineer you may envy them makes, even though you cannot do what they can, yet they can what most engineers in current education scenario cannot, this taught me that knowledge, skill and humility are the ones that should be together for one to thrive and not knowledge, pride and boasting.
From Bhagirath palace, in walk of ten minutes, you reach the world renowned, “Paranthe Waali Gali” I am no gourmet, but of one is a gourmand then it would be a sin to miss this place if you are visiting Chandani Chowk. The word “Parantha” explicitly tells us that the main attraction are the paranthas, but they are not the only ones, it also offers finger licking good kachodi, chaat and how could I forget the ones who have sweet tooth, for the jalebi, kulfi, Rabdri Faluda, that you would taste here are incomparable as well as impossible to find anywhere else in the world. But what you also get to learn is that the food as you see is rich in calories and carbohydrates with some protein, which tells us that it was traditionally started by those and for those who were a class of people who had to work hard. Physically as well as mentally, who needed and still do need a lot of energy and thus high amount of calories to meet their daily tasks. This tells us about the work culture of the place.
After filling yourself with irresistible delicacies, to throat its natural one would want to walk, so in ten fifteen minutes as the food moves down from your throat to belly, you reach the St Stephens church on the Church road which is a typical Gothic type structure with Romanesque Architecture, its Stained glass rose windows, which allow sunlight to uniquely brighten the interior are exclusive in whole Delhi. Now after beholding this church from inside out, if you are up for another ten fifteen minutes’ walk you get to the world famous Red Fort, which is always one of the most sought after monument for tourists to visit, we cannot go into much detail of the fort in this essay, but it would be suffice to say that it is a dearly held cultural heritage which is reflected by the fact that our independence speech is addressed to the whole nation, by the prime minister, from the ramparts of this Fort.
Although I did not cover all the places worth visiting, I am inclined to at least mention the monuments which add to the grandeur of the multi- cultural heritage of this unique place in India, they are Jain Mandir, Gauri Shankar Mandir, Galibh ki Hvaeli, Moti Masjid and many more as it would not be possible In this word range to tell all, I have include only the main ones. I would like to add that Chandani Chowk has truly embedded the idea that “India is unity in diversity”, as it has etched itself with a mark of every religion and it exudes a vibe of a tryst between the modern and old culture and hence is unique in the whole of India.
So the unique speciality of Chandani Chowk lies in the Vast Gamut of experiences it gives in one place and in a modicum of time.
Author: – Savyasachi Joshi