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By-lanes of the heart

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FLASHBACK Participants checking out one of the havelis during the walk
FLASHBACK Participants checking out one of the havelis during the walk

Literary enthusiasts walk the lanes of Chandni Chowk to recreate the setting of Krishna Sobti's novel, "The Heart Has Its Reasons"

"Winter this year leaves the whole city shivering. The cold wave sweeps over the ramparts of Red Fort, spilling over the steps of Jama Masjid. Out come piles of warm blankets, thick quilts and duvets. Colourful woollens, cottons and silks hanging outside the shop flap." You could experience this scene from Krishna Sobti's book, "The Heart Has Its Reasons" (Dil-o-Danish), if you were to take a stroll in the bylanes of Purani Dilli, where every step, nook and corner echoes the memories of a bygone era.Keeping up with the trend of blending literature with heritage, Intach and Katha organised a heritage walk based on Sobti's powerful narrative. On a cold morning, a group of literary enthusiasts walked the streets of Chandni Chowk. Historian Swapna Liddle led the group. The walk recreated visual setting, colour, sound, taste and environment similar to the story in the book. This is like the famous the Da Vinci Code Walk in Paris. The story is a love triangle set in the Dilli of the 1920s. Mehak and Kripanarayan's love threatens to destroy the seams of family and passion, as Kutumb the wife gropes for the silvers of a broken marriage three powerful characters, three distinct voices against the backdrop of Chandni Chowk.

Comparing notes

The walk starts from Digambar Jain Temple. From there you walk towards the labyrinth to explore the haveli at Gali Khazanchi and compare notes with Sobti's fictitious Haveli Charbuzi. To quote, "The grand haveli of Vakil Kripanarayan sat facing the Red Fort. Most mansions of Chandni Chowk had a large courtyard bordered on the four sides with spacious rooms. This one was a Haveli Charbuzhi with huge courtyards and four imposing pillars."This haveli brings the colour of the book alive. Though it has become dilapidated and symbols of modernisation have crept in, you can still see remnants of its glorious past a huge courtyard, distinctively long row of metal pillars fronting the first floor verandah, huge arches, minarets, domes and four imposing pillars.As you leave the comfort of the haveli, vendors throng with their wares leather bags, watches, and shoes. The streets are far more crowded than the period mentioned in the book. Rickshaws and two-wheelers have replaced tongas and elegant horse-drawn buggies, the quilt shops have given way to leather showrooms, jewellery and fancy clothes.You negotiate the alleys and walk past Ghantewala Sweet Shop, savouring memories of sweets such as pista lonj and malai ke laddoo. As of now the sweet shop is under construction. During Moghul times there were great processions along Chandni Chowk, and it is said that the royal elephant would stop in front of his shop and ring its bell, refusing to go further until given some sweets.

Winding up

For Ballimaran, you wade through concrete markets, busy marketplace, negotiate through rows and rows of churi wallahs and foam leather shops. You get a sneak peek at Ghalib's haveli. Here too, specks of modernisation such as a phone booth and a Pepsi shop have crept in. The walk ends at Fatehpuri Masjid in Farashkhana. You can grab a bite at Kripanarayan's favourite haunt, Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan's café, in Paranthewali Gali.Commenting on the walk, Swapna Liddle said Chandni Chowk has many streets to be discovered and walking while comparing notes with a book was a great idea. "Delhi is full of people who are heritage lovers, so this is a good opportunity to create walks based on novels." AMRITA TALWAR

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