City Region – Middle Lane, Connaught Place
It’s not loved.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Its curved passage is empty. The stone floor uneven. The wall disfigured. The plaster is chipping off. This short passage connects the Outer Circle corridor to the Middle Lane of M-block in Connaught Place (CP), Delhi’s colonial-era shopping district, which is being given a major facelift in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.
Most showrooms and restaurants in CP line its Inner Circle. Since the opening of the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station at Central Park in 2006, newer cafes, fast food outlets and an increase in footfall has brightened the otherwise dull Outer Circle too. It’s the Middle Circle that remains drab. Drabber still is the Middle Lane that links the Outer Circle to the Middle. The stylish crowd is rarely spotted here, despite its proximity to watering holes such as Q’ba, @live and Blues.
“I’m running this shop here since 1978,” says Anup Kumar of Rameshwar Das, a stationary store that is one of the only two shops in the passageway. “While Inner Circle has undergone a makeover and Outer Circle is being renovated, the Middle Lane hasn’t changed at all.” Outside, the wall’s whitewashed layer has peeled off exposing large patches of blue. “Sometimes I get my side of wall painted,” says Mr Kumar.
An attempt at the corridor’s beautification was definitely done in the past. Of the two side lanes to the passageway, while the one towards Kumar’s shop is cemented, the one on the other side has a marbled flooring in chessboard pattern.
Office goers, salesmen, young couples and shoppers walking in the Outer Circle corridor rarely throw a peek into this gallery. Its other end opens into the Middle Lane. On the right are five auto spare parts shops. Upstairs is something rarer — private residences.
Sanjeev Gupta has been living in his second floor apartment for 47 years. His terrace has a lovely view of the Outer Circle Road and of high-rises such as Statesman Tower and Gopaldas Building. “Outer and Inner Circles are being redone. The Middle Circle may be the next,” Mr Gupta says, hopefully.
Next, The Delhi Walla calls Anand Tiwari of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), the agency renovating the area. “Our focus are Inner and Outer Circles,” Mr Tiwari says. “In the Middle Lane, we are setting up tunnels with service ducting for electric wires and cables, water and sewage. There won’t be any new-look Middle Lane.”
So, while the Georgian architecture of CP’s Inner and Outer Circles have started shining, the Middle Circle will remain as it always has.
Not everyone minds this status quo. Painter Karim Khan, who feels “the presence of a sea beach whenever he is in Connaught Place”, says, “I will always prefer the Middle Lane over the Inner and Outer Circles. For me, a beautiful woman who is dead is nothing compared to an ugly woman who is alive.”
Almost forgotten, Middle Lane passageway
Much loved Outer Circle
Not much life, Middle Lane
This too is CP, Middle Lane
Another view, Middle Lane
Mr Gupta’s home, Middle Lane
Mr Gupta’s terrace view, Middle Lane
CP renovation, Outer Circle