City Landmark – Janta Band, Naya Bazar
The music station.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The walls are plastered with photographs of men playing saxophones, though some are also in dancing costumes. A window is decked with a drum and a small trumpet.
This cramped cosy room in Gurgaon’s Naya Bazar in the Greater Delhi Region exudes the vibes of a musician’s studio. It’s actually the booking office of Janta Band, the oldest surviving music band service for weddings and other celebrations in this part of the city, or perhaps in the entire so-new Millennium City. The band was founded in 1925.
This afternoon the place is suffused with quietude, though it feels extremely crowded, perhaps because of the plentiful wall photographs. The most profound portraits are of three men behind the desk. “They are my ancestors,” informs Hemant Dewan, the young owner. “I’m the band’s fourth generation maalik.”
The oldest of these three photographs shows a youngish looking man dressed in a military uniform with golden epaulets. This is Master Kanhaiyya Lal Dewan, the band’s founder. His picture is followed by that of his son, the late Amar Singh Dewan. And beneath them is the portrait of a suited man—Master Rajendra, the current owner’s father who died in 2004. This last photograph is striking. No matter from which angle you look at the face, the eyes seem to be gazing straight at you.
Indeed, despite its practical utility as a place to fix bookings for shaadis or Mata ki Chowkis, the music band’s dimly-lit office feels like a surreal museum shedding reflections of Gurgaon’s recent social history. It ought to be visited by people who revere the city’s lesser-known but long-time institutions. These are the landmarks that brave through a furiously changing world, and smoothly anchor the present to its past. The band’s atmospheric office never closes, not even at night, barring exceptions.
And the band plays on