I thought of starting a new series on Delhi… This picture you see is Delhi Gate… What can I say about this gate? Let me quote from an e-book that I am halfway through – on my street photography in the Walled City of Delhi – Shahjahanabad.
This is only the first draft yet…. so it will be improved upon.
Delhi Gate is situated at one end of the street/ area called Daryaganj.
“This street is, in some ways, imbued with a different kind of history. Way back on 20th September 1857, the last Mughal King – Bahadur Shah Zafar – was brought back through Delhi Gate, to stand trial at the Red Fort. He had tried to escape after the Mutiny, and was found hiding in the tomb of his ancestor – Humayun – the second Mughal Emperor.
Just outside the boundaries of the Walled City, is another gate called the Khooni Darwaza, or ‘The Bloody/Blooded Gate’. Bahadur Shah’s two elder sons, who were being brought back as prisoners on a cart drawn by asses, were asked to dismount, stripped naked on the street, and shot.
This happened on the 21st September, 1857. Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan were shot by Major William Hodson. Bahadur Shah Zafar, his wife Zenat Mahal, and a few others were exiled to Rangoon in 1858. Bahadur Shah died in 1862, and is grave is regarded with some degree of respect by visitors today. Some consider him to have been a sort of saint.
With this event, not only did the Mughal Empire finally end, but it also marked the end of a way of life. The age of poets, and the royal courts was over. The voice of the courtly poets was now stilled forever, as the whole area was then converted into an area of mass killings.”
“Fast forward now, to 1947. Ninety years passed, and India was now a free, and newly independent country. In the bloody frenzy of Independence, and Partition, many Punjabis and Hindus crossed the borders into India.
Many of them came to Delhi, and started new lives in India. Many of them, and I count my own ancestors in this, gave up their lives in West Punjab, which is now in Pakistan, and came to Daryaganj to start all over again.
From here, they branched out to other parts of Delhi, and thus the story of Delhi continued. The vendors of today have probably forgotten the old stories, but they live on in the bricks of the old wall of the city.
The old stories, and memories live on in the remains of Delhi Gate. The voices of the past, and the ghosts of our history live on in the crumbling walls and the crumbling facades that now line the streets that take us on our faltering steps into the future.
I could not help but reflect upon the histories that we Indians are all too willing to distort or forget as we attempt to forge our mark upon the modern world.”
“The day was still young. People were busy shopping. Life was moving on. There was very little time for reflection. There was very little time for sentimental reflections on the past.
The vendors who I photographed had smiles in their eyes, and this is something that I silently thanked them for. Despite the struggles of their lives, they had not lost their sense of humour, or their essential warmth as people.
This, at least, was something we can be grateful for, I mused, as I made my way through the crowded streets to the Metro station that would take me home that afternoon.”