THE ANCIENT PROFESSIONS OF OLD DELHI

Modernity is seeping into Old Delhi, a walled district that has long harboured the Indian capital’s traditional ways of life. But what does this mean for long-standing Delhi-wallahs and their archaic practices? Jack Palfrey reports on a city in flux.

The traffic splutters and snarls but remains stationary. The once resplendent Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’s famed Moonlight Bazaar, is clogged like one of its litter-filled drains.

I’m sitting in a bicycle rickshaw; a fan seller tugs at my arm (“very much hot today sir”), while a sadhu (holy man), in the distinctive sunset-saffron robe, stretches a hopeful hand towards me. My driver, oblivious, rambles about his cousin, who spent a year studying somewhere in England and disapproved of the bland British cuisine.

This is the Old Delhi of today. The former opulent walled capital of the grand Mughal Empire that has deteriorated into a snubbed suburb of British-built New Delhi.

Hectic and humbling, it’s a microcosm of forgotten India; a rambunctious refuge safeguarding the capital city’s oldest, and most fascinating, ways of life.

Now, after centuries of neglect, change is stirring in the Old Delhi neighbourhood.

A million-dollar project to increase accessibility to the area via three new metro stations – slated for completion in June 2017 – is raising the district’s profile, leading to growing investment in infrastructure and new business ventures.

But what does modernisation mean for long-standing Delhi-wallahs and their alluring ancient traditions? Here, three men plying some of the city’s oldest trades share their stories.