Though a Delhite it had never occurred to me to explore Old Delhi, having heard of it as only being ‘dirty and crowded’. And it was not until my work as a travel writer pulled me with a great fascination to any place new or unknown, that I grew excited and impatient about the idea of wanting the see and experience Purani dilli.
A most appealing opportunity came when work took me there. No need to fish out time, wait for weekends or holidays to visit it now! We got a project with the Archaeological Survey of India to publish a guidebook on Red Fort.
After mounds of research and a rough draft with all information collated, we got ready to make trips to the fort, to photograph and experience it for our self. Armed with cameras and any/every permission required, we went about capturing the fort, inside-out.
There is a lot more to Red Fort than meets the eye. It took me at least seven (if not more) visits to the fort to be able to experience and capture it in its entirety – a general walk around the complex on day one, and thereafter a close look at all the palaces, museums, gardens and the adjoining Salimgarh fort.
Peeking into every corner otherwise out-of-bounds for visitors, climbing on to the ramparts and exploring it by the inch, we fell in love with the fort. The romance and grandeur of the fort undoubtedly came alive with all its tales and legends that we had gathered.
End of it, I had visited the fort at all times of the day possible – shooting it in the early morning light, exploring the indoor spaces when the sun was overhead, walking through the gardens in the evening breeze, and seeing the little shops in Chhatta-Chowk aglow in the dark.
And needless to say, once we were done with our work, all visits to the fort would be accompanied by exploring some part of old Delhi! Visit to Jama Masjid, eating at Karim or Al Jawahar… shopping for silver at Dariba Kalan…rickshaw ride through the galis – the crowded, jostling Chawri bazaar, the tinsel Kinari bazaar, and Nayi sadak with its rows of stationers and bookshops…eating at Paranthewali gali and having a lassi in khullar with rose essence sprinkled on top from Kinari bazaar… aah what life!
The Red Fort project was thrilling not just because of the visits to old Delhi, but because it was to be my first design project! The first Goodearth guide that I design! And looking back I’d say designing the book wasn’t as much a task as it was to make a selection of the pictures, from the zillion we’d all ended up taking! So much for our zeal and enthusiasm!
Here is a glimpse of the pages.
The guide is available with the Archaeological Survey of India at their Janpath office. For any one remotely interested in the monument, I’d suggest you grab it, for you’d surely feel the fort coming alive for you once you’ve immersed yourself in the legends and history surrounding it!