Lined with vanishing houses.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The residences are arranged along a tree-lined semicircle. The community garden permits entry only to the area’s residents.
This section of the upscale Hazrat Nizamuddin East – from bungalow no. 12 to 22 – is undergoing a profound transformation. It is also home to novelist Vikram Seth.
Situated between a railway station and a busy road in central Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin East – locals simply call it ‘Niz’ – is the address of the rich. The rooftops of some houses look to the Mughal-era Humayun’s Tomb. A few others face the inferior Khan i Khana’s tomb.
The locality was originally developed to provide housing to the Partition refugees who came from what is now Pakistan. Down the years, as the real estate prices soared, most of the early residents sold their plots to the more well-off, some of whom happened to be ex-nawabs, ex-rajas, politicians and bureaucrats. The new owners raised huge multi-storied bungalows, their roofs and balconies lined with flower pots, their rooms decorated with heavy chandeliers, their walls decked with framed prints of famous paintings purchased in the museums of Paris and London.
Today, having a Nizamuddin East address on one’s visiting card has become a matter of such esteem that the rents have skyrocketed prompting many bungalow owners to raze their homes to make way for more profitable apartment blocks in which they might live on one floor, while renting out the others at high prices.
The bungalows still form the majority in this semicircle but we are beginning to see the face of tomorrow. Two apartment buildings have recently come up; each of the many flats is a clone of the other. The bungalows, on the other hand, lie pickled in their own decades-old architectural oddities. Each looks so private and withdrawn that one wonders at the life led by its inhabitants.
Though you can walk down the entire pathway in less than five minutes, a slower pace will be more revealing. The tall windows of these houses offer sudden glimpses: an old man smoking a cigar, a woman pacing across the room, a melancholic-seeming boy standing still, a uniformed maid dusting a bookshelf, a restless German Shepherd.
The guards stationed outside these bungalows add further privacy to the world they are duty-bound to protect.
One day soon Hazrat Nizamuddin East will consist only of a series of apartment blocks. One hopes that the people in those identical flats can preserve the life unique to ‘Niz’, so steeped in mystery and specialness.
Where Gate No. 4, Hazrat Nizamuddin East Best Time Evening Nearest Metro Station Jangpura
A changing world