City Neighbourhood – Karol Bagh, West-Central Delhi
The Delhi walla‘s pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls – Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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It has energy, warmth and sinful street food.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
If Chandni Chowk-ites must keep masakallis for pets, then the only business in Karol Bagh must be searching for saris and sehras.
That’s the cliché about Karol Bagh, a residential and commercial district in west-central Delhi. Once home to a large number of Muslims, most of whom left for Pakistan after the Indian Partition, it changed its character with the arrival of Hindu refugees from Pakistani Punjab.
Today the area is popular as a shopping destination for middle-class Delhiwallas. Infact in 2006, Miranda House’s English Literature professor Manju Kapur set her novel Home about an unhappy middle class family in this neighbourhood. Guess how the family made its living? It ran a saree showroom!
“Sorry, Manju Kapur’s Karol Bagh with its suppressed women and incestuous men is not my Karol Bagh,” protests Ms Anuja Chauhan, a Gurgaon-based author whose bestseller The Zoya Factor was about a spunky Karol Bagh girl. “Mine has energy; it exudes warmth,” she adds.
Vibrancy, the bazaar certainly has. Giant hoardings turn the skyline into a multi-coloured fantasy, mannequins seem as alive as the sales assistants, and the crowd shops around as if recession is yesterday’s headline. On Ajmal Khan Road, the area’s premier shopping district, the flea stalls (handbags on tree branches; chappals on car bonnets) co-exist harmoniously with their big brand neighbours. This happy marriage doubles the varieties on sale. If Roopak is the house of spices, Impressions has the nailpaints and eyeliners, and at Sirs & Hers, you risk ending up all barcoded.
“I spent six years in Karol Bagh,” reveals Ms Chauhan who lived in her grandfather’s bungalow on New Rohtak Road. Initially she was uncomfortable about the address. “Everyone in my DPS Mathura Road school came either from Sundar Nagar or Def Col,” she says, “And I would tell myself, ‘God, I’m from Karol Bagh!’”
However, the neighbourhood quietly cast it charm on her with its “lovely Ajmal Khan Park behind Dadaji’s house”, the ‘ladies’ park’ and the sights and sounds when Ravan effigy was burnt on Dusshera.
If still indifferent to the place, surely you can no longer stay that way if we talk of… well, Karol Bagh’s food – Anjalika’s sandwiches, Roshan ki kulfis, Sardar ki tikkis, pavement popcorns, and the shakarkandis and ganderis. Factory-made burgers, too, have retail outlets here.
Across the road, is the Ghaffar Market, famous for its smuggled iPods and iPhones. Though you can be forgiven for feeling transported to a Jane Austen country. The streets are lined with pretty buttons, laces and, lest we forget, imported clips! “Earlier I was sheepish about living in Karol Bagh,” Ms Chauhan confesses. “But now I’m proud of it.”
A Karol Bagh walla
Karol Bagh gentry
He want factory burgers
This too is Karol Bagh
First floor, Karol Bagh
Dressing up for the day
See ya, Karol