City Landmark – Brijlal and Sons, Meharchand Market
The gentrification survivor.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It wasn’t always that way.
But now, a pot of tea for one at the Meharchand Market can set you back by 150 rupees.
Flush with expensive restaurants and showrooms, this market in Central Delhi has moved very far from its origins as a rehabilitation project for partition refugees.
Happily, the ongoing gentrification hasn’t yet wiped out all the beloved and very homey enterprises such as Gujral Brothers and Shyam Book Depot. Or Brijlal and Sons, set up in 1947 when Rawalpindi grocer Brijlal was allotted the shop to build a new life in newly independent India.
“His portrait isn’t here but our father’s (Vivekanand) photograph is on the wall,” says Parveen Kumar Anand. He’s one of the brothers manning the family-run enterprise—with shelves stocked with nearly everything needed for a contemporary kitchen, plus an old TV for timepass.
“But what we stock has changed over the years to suit the tastes of our customers,” he says. “And we now sell six types of rice.”
A female patron now enters the grocery with her daughter, stopping to chat with Mr Lal’s brothers—Rajesh and Rakesh– who respond with a kind of restrained intimacy; bespeaking their longtime acquaintance with a loyal customer.
So, will their grocery continue to thrive, even as Merharchand Market gets ever more posh, ever more expensive?
Mr Lal cannot provide an iron-clad guarantee. “One isn’t sure… it’s the haalaat (conditions). Kuch bhi ho sakta hain (anything can happen).”
You ought to stop by this place before it gives way to one more elegant brasserie offering French meals, or turns into a boutique stocked with organic products. And then Brijlal will be consigned to Meharchand’s history, much like the popular First Wonder tailoring shop, or the Naveen Restaurant loved for its dal makhani. The shop opens daily from 10 am to 9 pm.
The old Meharchand