Chandni Chowk, my former parliamentary constituency, is a perfect example of the multicultural and multi-religious India. On a street stretching barely a mile stands a Mosque, a Gurudwara, a Temple and a Church. However, the 350-year-old Heritage City is fast turning into a concrete slum owing to rampant illegal construction and dangerous buildings. Chandni Chowk now appears like a dirty and unsightly slum, full of rickshaw, old sewer and suspended electric wires.
 
In 2001, we took a major step to revive the old glory of Chandni Chowk through a two-day festival called ‘Chaudhvin ka Chand’. The festival involved restoring the 3.5 km stretch, from the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. After the restoration, the traffic was limited to only 200 rickshaws and 8 open buses; all the other vehicles were made to park at Red Fort to avoid cramping the Chandni Chowk area.
 
As a part of celebrations, 282 houses, 599 shops and all buildings of cultural importance were renovated and illuminated. The illumination of Red Fort and the addition of greenery to Chandni Chowk ensured further enhanced the beauty of the area. The entire locality turned vibrant; even the lamp posts were refurbished. Several kiosks were setup to sell traditional crafts of Chandni Chowk and to offer the exotic cuisines of old Delhi. The veteran theatre artists Amir Raza Hussain and Mrs. Raza Hussain were asked to design the concept and assist in organizing the event. Besides to preservation of the heritage of the walled city, the festival also helped in strengthening harmony in the multi-religious area like Chandni Chowk.
 
Some of the other restoration projects include renovating Haj Manjil, restoring Urdu Poet Mirza Ghalib’s haveli, promoting Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb, building Marghatwale Hanuman Mandir, and restoring heritage buildings like the Huxar Haveli (place where the baraat of Pt. Nehru stayed) and Chunnamal haveli.
 
A museum depicting the glorious 350-year old history of Delhi’s walled city was also set up in a 100-year old heritage building at Lahori Gate. The museum brought together the lifestyle, heritage, architecture and composite culture of Chandni Chowk under one roof. It had a rare collection of old artifacts and photographs of Havelis in the 16th century, and artifacts of Shahjahanabad such as Jharokhs and Jaalis. The museum had been a tourism spot for domestic and foreign visitors to Delhi.
 
On several occasions, I have fervently expressed the need to get Chandni Chowk recognized as a heritage city by the UNESCO. I reasoned by showcasing the rich culture of the walled city in my two books: “The Emperor City” and “Old Delhi and the Walled City”. I am humbled to receive the Global Excellence Award and the prestigious Sur-Sadhna Award for my work in the field of Culture, Heritage and Development.
 
Another project close to my heart, which finished a couple of years ago, is restoration of a private property in Old Delhi. Over the course of six years, the 19th century Dharampur Haveli was painstakingly transformed from tatters to an exquisite boutique hotel. The elaborated architectural elements were restored while keeping original spatial configuration unchanged. Dozens of dedicated craftsmen and laborers worked with traditional materials and special construction techniques alongside modern technologies to carefully return the Moghul-era building to its former splendor. My son Siddhant had been a big support to me in this project all through the restoration work. It is further heartening that UNESCO recognized the restoration work with Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation, mentioning that the project serves as an inspiration for restoring other sites and Shahjahanabad as a whole in all dimensions.

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My visions for Delhi stems from these inspiring words of Swami Vivekanada. I sincerely believe that Delhi has enough number of brave, bold men and women who can make it not only one of the best cities.

My vision for Delhi is that it should be a city of opportunities where people

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