Shahnaz Husain's Capital – Yesterday Tehran, Today Delhi
India’s most famous beauty expert copes with the whims of an evolving city.
[By Shahnaz Husain; the author’s picture was taken during 1971]
I was born in Hyderabad, married in Lucknow, moved to Tehran, came to Delhi and then never left the city.
During my early years in the city, in the 70s, Delhi was less cosmopolitan than Tehran. The capital of the Shah of Iran was the city of tomorrow. Ice skating and bowling became popular in Delhi only during the 90s; Tehran was buzzing with them 20 years ago.
The women there dressed in the latest French style — but underneath an abaya. Still, they managed to attract onlookers with their enchanting kohl-lined eyes. However, public display of affection and free mingling of men and women were not encouraged in Iran, just as it was in Delhi.
In Tehran, I loved visiting Shemiran, the royal family’s summer residence, on the slopes of Alburz mountains. With trimmed gardens and elegant mansions, the district was an address of Iran’s elite.
Buzurg, the city’s most popular bazaar, was lined with shops stacked with turquoise jewellery and delicately embroidered fabrics. In Delhi, I never missed Buzurg; there was always Chandni Chowk.
However, today’s Delhi is nothing like it was in the 70s. There were more trees then, and I do not remember Blueline buses. We had tongas on which I would go to India Gate with children, all of us nibbling on bhooni hui garma garam moongfali. We would ride on them on our way to see films in Golcha and Sheila, and to have kebabs and coffee in CP — for just Rs 10.
These were our little pleasures which today’s generation can never have. Now, poolside hotel parties have replaced living room mehfils. The warmth of the shopkeepers has given way to the anonymity of shop assistants in imposing malls.
But Delhi continues to throb with vitality and excitement. Old times might be dying but I’m able to enjoy myself in the promises of the new era. Earlier, I adored the chicken tikkas served at the Café Purani Dilli in Chanakyapuri. It shut down. Now there’s Barista. I have a special liking for it. I go there daily with family and friends. I even have staff meetings there. Sometimes I ask my staff to bring their families in the café and we all have a good time.
While I do miss the personal touch of old markets, Saket’s Select City Walk mall has become my favourite shopping destination.
However, in these changing times, one thing has remained contant — Greater Kailash. I may have changed houses, changed blocks, but I’ve never changed this neighbourhood. GK is home.
The author is one of the country’s biggest beauty experts and entrepreneurs.