Life in Delhi’s prettiest neighborhood.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Hauz Khas Village has become a â€˜hang outâ€™. Artist types still come but the ageless rich have infiltrated in large numbers. These people look successful, cocky and aggressively happy. They have great bodies and they are plushly underdressed; they speak accented English among themselves and broken Hindi with the auto-rickshaw drivers; their biceps are tattooed with slogans in Hebrew; they always have at least one white friend; they are constantly laughing and screaming and exchanging hugs. They seem to be in a state of permanent vacation.
Iâ€™m only slightly exaggerating.
Recently a new club opened. Three bulky bouncers in black would stand outside; their eyes scanning every visitor. Each time I tried going in, my courage failed. Feeling seedy, I feared what if I was refused entry? I donâ€™t have an iPhone and my underwear brand is of Indian origin.
Two years ago Iâ€™d settled in the village hoping to be inspired by its quiet loveliness. The place was like a secret; itâ€™s in south Delhiâ€™s heart, yet isolated from it. Snuggled towards the deep end of a semi-wild park, the village was visited by those who were into monuments, or who were taken in by its listless boutiques, curio stores and restaurants. The villagers rented out their rooms for cheap. This was a ghetto of kurta-wearing painters, longhaired guitarists and aspiring novelists who peed outside their windows in freezing December mornings. Trying to build the persona of a starving writer (actually I always had money for food), I felt at home in the village.
But now I feel out of place. The villageâ€™s easygoing bohemian character is being beaten black and blue. One painter who has a lake-facing studio has been asked to leave. The landlord is giving it to a restaurant chain at a rent that is four times higher. The villageâ€™s sole secondhand bookstore havenâ€™t opened for months. The monument-facing apartments are furnished for foreigners and Non Resident Indians. Some artist-residents are predicting a quick doom of cafes that were opened by cookbook enthusiasts with much passion and scant money; they warn that the villageâ€™s real estate will soon be taken over by outlets like Costa Coffee and Pantaloons. Maybe they are being alarmists, maybe not.
Meanwhile my landlord has called me in the evening. Is some white Euro eyeing my monument-facing room? Am I being served with eviction notice? Is my Hauz Khas picnic coming to an end?
Expensive and glittering
Missing, the seller of secondhand books
White people, brown chocolate
This view has a barcode