Delhiwale: Chitli’s deafening silence

by Carter Toni

You can hear it if you listen. The silence.

An shortage of sound has descended across the Chitli Qabar Chowk similar to a shroud upon the body of your dead. The air is alive with the twittering of birds though, but that only intensifies this strange quietude.

Delhiwale Chitli’s deafening silence

This reporter experienced the area’s starkly new silence during the duration of a recently available stay lasting round the clock in a multi-storey house, situated there from the Chowk. It will be the only four-way crossroad within this area of the historic Walled City.

Every morning, the centre from the Chowk was once taken over by fish manger Muhammed Parvez. His ramshackle cart was an unofficial meeting point for that local gentry (always men) to gather and gossip about weather, politics and also who died and who has been born through which galli or kucha the last night.

Long after the morning, and during the day, the Chowk can be similar to a pressure cooker crammed with all kinds of tumultuous sounds-the cries of flower sellers, biryani sellers, balloon sellers, passers-by, rickshaw pullers, goats, beggars, dogs and tourists. There would be azaans streaming out of your loudspeakers from neighbourhood mosques at appointed hours.

The good news is all is stilled, except for the azaans; the mosques are locked with noticed slapped on their own doors, instructing the faithful to “pray at home.”

Indeed, this afternoon barely any soul is seen from the Chowk. One side-alley rising to Pahari Rajaan does have its giant wooden doorway shut closed.

Later inside the day, several of the shops and stalls which can be allowed to operate open for brief business, and the Chowk is restored to many aural stirrings.

By evening, a few minutes after 7pm, the official beginning of the corona-triggered 12-hour curfew, the streets empty out totally.

And lastly, your day has unfolded in fact it is 10pm. No familiar faces, seen here each night in the BC (Before Corona) era are around-Muhammed Shakeer with his ice-cream cart, Raj Malik with his gas-filled balloons, and Muhammed Junaid, who manned the Burra Biryani stall. There’s also no indication of Mehboob tea stall, a pavement establishment that served adrak chai the complete night long.

Now a person in white kurta pyjama steps into this setting. He looks throughout the emptiness, and walks away, perhaps towards his home, leaving Chitli Qabar to the silence. A silence so profound that you feel you can caress it with your personal hands.

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