Delhi – the capital city of India- the cultural and political hub of the country is also known for its delectable food, shopping, beautiful roads lined with trees, forts, museums and cultural activities. When you’re in the city on a holidayor a business trip, you’re spoilt for choices!
We caught up with 27-year-old Kanika Singh who is currently pursuing PhD in History; the co-founder of Delhi Heritage Walks who’s keen interest in research on Delhi’s history, heritage and museums, has led her to start heritage walks in the city along with a friend.
Delhi Heritage Walks strive to help us get an insight into this historical city. Whether you’re in an Indian or a foreign tourist, a Heritage Walk through Delhi will certainly open up new surprises that you would have never been aware of! Maybe you would have driven through those lanes several times; not knowing what historical event is attached to the area. It is such knowledge, which will lead to people being more sensitive about their city and in turn restoration of our heritage.
Armed with the aims of exploring the lesser known areas of the city and to understand its heritage: the past, how it has changed, and its relevance in our lives, Kanika and Rajesh (the co-founders) embarked upon a journey to unravel the glorious history of Delhi.
How did it all begin?
Delhi Heritage Walks took shape in October 2009 with the help of two founders the late Rajesh Ranjan, a software engineer by profession, who passed away last year from JNU and Kanika Singh.
“I had been leading heritage walks with other organizations but was never satisfied with either the level of academic inputs or professional management which should go into organizing these. For instance, I was never given inputs on who my visitors were going to be. I was once leading heritage walks for some school kids and ended up with a group of hearing impaired children. If I had known, I would have made an effort to communicate more effectively. It’s these little things, which make all the difference between rote memorized guiding and making a heritage walk fun & informative. So Rajesh and I decided to start a fresh initiative, which would focus on heritage walks. We maintain high professional standards, place great emphasis on presentation, design walks according to interests and convenience of visitors and as a result enjoy great rapport with them,” recalls Kanika.
The team at Delhi Heritage Walks comprises of voluntary participation from various fields.
“We are seven people at present, out of which three of us lead walks – myself, AwadheshTripathi (a Phd in Hindi Literature and an expert storyteller) and Pushpa (a fashion designer). Chhavi Sharma (studying to become a teacher) and others like Snehlata, Naveen, Kavita Singh do the logistics. We all work together on recces and designing walks,” mentions Kanika.
The most popular walks are old Delhi, Tughluqabad and heritage trails on the revolt of 1857. Kanika and her team have organized walks on the food during Ramzan, which has been especially popular.
She mentions, “For many people our heritage walks offer an opportunity to visit unfamiliar areas, which they otherwise would not explore on their own. Also, food stops combined with interesting information about heritage seems to be an ideal combination. The food is fresh and very different from what one eats in the rest of the city.”
The walks are 2 hrs and 2kms long. Some walks are in the morning such as old Delhi, Kashmiri Gate and Mehrauli. Others like Hauz Khas and Lodi Garden are organized in evenings. In summer the morning time is 7.30 am and eve is 5 pm; in winter we start at 9.30 or 10 am and 3.30 pm in eve.
“We charge Rs. 250/- per head. For school students it is Rs. 150/- per head & Rs. 250/- for college students,” adds Kanika.
What makes Delhi Heritage Walks so Unique
Authentic information, easy method of communication which is informal and interesting; professionalism, follow-up on walks are some of the main factors that make Delhi Heritage Walks so unique.
“When we lead walks we try to communicate information on Delhi’s history in an interesting way to a varied audience. Follow-ups help us realize the gaps in this effort and hence we are able to review our work much better. It also helps us understand our audience better,” says Kanika.
Kanika beams, “Moreover, we are a team and not a single-person business; so we can do much more and lend variety to our work. These factors make us better than others.”
More so, Delhi Heritage Walks also offer Customized Walks as well. Kanika further mentions, “This is the option for those who cannot join our regular schedule or are looking for something designed specifically for themselves, according to their interests. So these walks can be designed on a specific theme, and on a day/time of the visitors’ convenience.”
The fees for Customized Walks range from Rs. 2500/- for single persons; Rs. 3500/- for 2-5 persons; Rs. 700/- per head for 6 or more persons.
The clients that Delhi Heritage Walks get is 50-50 – i.e. Indian and foreign tourists. Sometimes, more than half of the audience is the locals. Among them, a lot of young professionals, in their 30s, specialized groups like architects and photographers.
“We also conduct walks for school students designed specifically to their curriculum or university students as well. Our weekend walks see a lot of families on their day out,” adds Kanika.
Kanika admits, “The most challenging aspect of talking about history is making it sound interesting to a varied audience. Each person has their own tale on history and heritage and interacting with people on these issues is both challenging as well as rewarding. So we learn as we share our own knowledge with our clients.”
We have done very well. Our publicity has been word of mouth, which speaks for itself. On an average, we get 35 people on each walk. We get a lot of repeat visitors. So those attend our walks once, come back for every new walk.
Kanika recalls, “Some of the most memorable moments have been conducting walks in pouring rains. Last year during the monsoons all our Kashmiri Gate walks were held and the best part was that we always had a good turn out up to 25 people! So the walk leaders and the walkers immensely enjoyed Delhi’s rains, and its history!”