City Hangout – ‘Harijan Camp’, Right Behind Meharchand Market
The hidden world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Hardly surprising, is it, that the Smart Set has a soft spot for Meharchand Market. Who wouldn’t be tempted by those captivating silver bracelets and handcrafted artifacts, adding a little extra something in daily existence. And there’s always that lovely tea house to wash down the excursion with a cup of Darjeeling.
But if well-heeled patrons wandered just behind this Central Delhi market they’d encounter another world altogether–here at ‘Harijan Camp’ seething in sweaty life.
You spot a woman carefully combing her daughter’s hair while over there on a stoop a girl is puzzling over her homework. Most residents at ‘Harijan Camp’ seem to be small shopkeepers, along with cart vendors and rickshaw pullers.
And any number of them are closet artists. Many of the one-room dwellings are painted gloriously, with strategically placed potted plants heightening their appeal. We even spot curtains that are real eye- catchers. Could well imagine paying a fancy sum for them at Meharchand.
The Delhi Walla isn’t the first intruders to discover ‘Harijan Camp’. The legendary American photographer Steve McCurry was so seduced that he once literally patrolled along these lanes, pausing now and again for some incredible shots. I spotted him following a baby goat for a very long time before capturing the image he sought (see the first photo below).
While walking back I spot some women peeling vegetables outside their homes, a sort of cozy kitchen. One of them runs a Chinese snack stall at night. “Come again for our potato fries!” she suggests cheerily.
Now I’m back where I started, amid the sober citizenry at Meharchand. It’s as though ‘Harijan Camp’ is a mere imagining.
The camp behind the market