By Zarmina Sheikh
Delhi gate, once a hub of travelling for the Mughals, connecting Delhi to Lahore Fort through the Shahi Guzargah (The Royal Trail), now cradles thousands of memories. While it is a national heritage site, the intertwining streets are still home to hundreds of people who benefit from tourism throughout the year. From the Pansari shops (grocers) around every corner to the local sherbet makers, the people of Delhi gate have been inheriting their forefathers’ businesses generation after generation.
Filled with dozens of stalls and hawkers, the Bazaars whisper many untold stories. Just stop for a while and listen. You can hear the street cries of the Miswak peddler who goes all the way to Kashmir every summer to buy his stock. The residents announce the fame of Khalifa Bakers, hidden between the chaos of the world, a small humble bakery, delivering their heavenly Khatai worldwide. And if you buy a glass of sherbet from the old man sitting across the bakery, he will tell you how he wakes up every morning to prepare each drink by hand, using the same ingredients decade after decade.
People here are hardworking and compassionate. They have the same routines day in and day out, whether selling petals outside a tomb or baking Bakarkhani; they have been doing it religiously for the past 50-60 years. But if you sit down with them, you will know they, too, had dreams unfulfilled. Perhaps the Tabla maker wanted to be a famous musician, but his hands turned frail from carving these instruments his whole life. The Miswak seller might have wished to give his children the life of urban Lahore, but he could only afford to feed them once a day. Countless dreams and desires died here, and many are being born every minute.
The area itself holds significance for its heritage and history. The government has made significant efforts to restore and preserve architectural beauties such as Shahi Hamam (The Royal Bath) and Wazir Khan Mosque. Wazir Khan mosque, intricately designed by the Mughals in the 17th century, once served as the central prayer area in old Lahore. Surrounded by calligraphers and painters, the exterior and interior of the mosque itself is a canvas for verses and Islamic representation of Paradise.
The Shahi Hamam, which once served as the Royal Bath for the Mughals, has been magnificently renovated as a tourist attraction. With a small peaceful cafe beside it, the Hamam is now open to all for visits and photography.
With many tourism opportunities, from Rangeela Rikshaw rides to photo walks, the locals have provided ease for people to celebrate and explore this once-decaying site of Lahore. So wander and take in the history, find out the stories, and you may yet discover something new about the rich culture these crowded streets inherited.