Colorful homes at Nizamuddin West, seen from Barapullah flyover

One Sunday while driving on the Barapullah flyover at 5 am I saw this colourful side, or rather the rear side, of Nizamuddin in south Delhi. Although a significant place in history - the mausoleum of the famous Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Syed Nizamuddin Auliya is located here - Nizamuddin like most old quarters in any city is a civic nightmare. There is stench all around on the alleyways, the drains are clogged, dangling electric wires block out the sun and the bricks that make the homes don’t give confidence.

A large part of Nizamuddin in its western end faces the Barapullah flyover. It is possible the buildings were painted fresh with the help of the city authorities to make them palatable to the people, including tourists, who would be looking around as they zoom past on the flyover.

Or did the residents one day decide to have a sit-down and paint the rear walls of their homes in a colour-coordinated exercise? That’s unlikely. People with limited means usually don’t bother to beautify the rear of their homes from where the drain pipes go out.

In the morning the sun comes up from behind the buildings, so the photos won’t look that great compared to when clicked in the evening, when the sunlight would be directly hitting the walls. I plan to go on the flyover on an evening when traffic is light.

The colours do look nice though. For a change no one should complain, unlike what happened in the old quarters of Delhi a year ago. Some walls there had been painted in bright colours by street artists. Fans of the Old Delhi charm criticised the people who made the graffiti for damaging what they say is a heritage asset.

But it would be hard to deny that Old Delhi is a shithole. To continue to patronise this place in a romantic way only fuels the artistic lie that privileged connoisseurs of heritage indulge in, instead of talking about the civic disaster that this place is.

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