As part of our ‘Walled City dictionary’ series that is out to chronicle all the Old Delhi places.
It is late morning and M. Zameer New Fashion is still shuttered. But the boutique’s banner (“costume designer in gents & all rounder”) is painted in red, and that is a point scorer. For one is on a spree to spot everything lal, or red.
Because this is Lal Galli, the red street.
But why is the street called red? A street-citizen buying Amul butter at Mahesh Store shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders. He disappears into a doorway decked with six electric meters. Alas, the lights in them are blinking hara, not lal. Nevertheless, the helpful Sunil of the electricity department, measuring the “meter reading” of these meters, points to an industrial tape wound around a nest of power cables. “See, that’s red!”
Across the lane, in a single-window hall, cook Mohan is silently stirring the milk boiling in a huge cauldron. Calling his kitchen a “karkhana” (factory) that makes food for a South Indian restaurant near Golcha cinema, a few gallis away, he searches for anything red about him. In vain. His apron is green, his banian is brown. “This street used to have a flower shop that sold lal gulab, and the name comes from there.” He adds—“I’m not completely sure.”
Further along, the sky disappears from the street, blocked out by balconies jutting out from both sides. But look, more lal! The real estate agent’s banner “A1 Properties” is painted red.
Meanwhile, the street turns out to be an assortment of more than one lane. And finally, the darkest red is sighted—it is a button shop hoarding, dangling amid a web of power cables (pictured). How did the hoarding land there? Whatever, it’s a typical Old Delhi sight. Last winter in Matia Mahal, this reporter had spotted a fluffy blanket hanging from dangerously dangling cables—as if it were put up for sunny-day airing on a wash line!
The street at last terminates, marked by a niche on a side-wall devoted to an unknown saint. It is all white tiles. On learning about the quest of the colour red in Lal Gali, a passerby suggests to come on Thursday, the day residents light up candles in this niche. She assures that the flickering flame can be counted as lal.