Mission Delhi – Lanoo, Lajpat Nagar
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She’s the kind of busy restless soul who hardly spends any waking hours at home. So this is a particularly trying time for her. The young engineering student is confined to her flat in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar–shared with her parents.
“I haven’t been out for 21 days,” reports Lanoo, 20, talking with The Delhi Walla on WhatsApp. The young woman talks like a torrent of mountain stream, her words rolling out one after another in a never-ending flow.
Lanoo says she’s spent her entire life in Lajpat Nagar, and now realizes how it’s irrevocably linked to her persona.
Lajpat Nagar, of course, is one of the capital’s most bustling shopping destinations. It’s also very cosmopolitan than many other Delhi places, generously peopled with folks from Afghanistan, for instance. A lifetime worth of sociology would still be insufficient to crack the nuances of this complex locality. Even so, one could get some intimate sense of the place by glimpsing the life and experiences of a girl who has been here since the time she was born.
This evening, with the rays of the setting sun illuminating her bed, Lanoo maps her private Lajpat Nagar, those places in her neighbourhood that makes up her biography. Perhaps, cooped up in your own self-isolation, you too, dear reader, can map your neighbourhood after your own private life.
Her west-facing room in Central Market
“Most houses in Lajpat are built like a train coach, with rooms laid out one after the other like train compartments. My own room’s right at the back, having a small marble table with two little Buddhas and an elephant. (She shows the table—piled up with books by philosophers Osho Rajneesh and J Krishnamurthy). It opens onto a balcony facing a forest. All you see are thick old trees, with the metro train tracks in the distance. See, they’re almost hidden behind the greenery; hard to believe you’re living in a place as noisy and crowded as Lajpat Nagar…. I now feel I have a strong relationship with this room but I’m spending far too much time here. I want to get out of this relationship.”
The bakery downstairs
“Angels Basket bakery is on the ground floor of our building, and my very best friend since childhood. Simply adore their chocolate chip pastry, and particularly the ones with the egg. I have at least four every week! I know all the men who man the counter—I call them Bhayya. I’ve been seeing them since my childhood. So much has changed in my life but the bakery is a reassuring constant. But you know what: despite being such a loyal longtime customer, I’ve never got even a one rupee discount for the pastries and patties! (She laughs) Now the bakery’s closed because of corona… I miss my chocolate chips.”
Lajpat Nagar metro station
“Frankly, I never thought of it much. It was just something that I had to walk to daily to catch a train for my college in Noida. Now I look upon it as the gateway that would take me to the world outside Lajpat. Every morning I would be there on the platform waiting for my connection, my ears plugged to soft soothing instrumental music while I’d use the waiting time to answer all my pending correspondence on WhatsApp, Instagram and snapchat… when will those busy days come back again!”
“Elena is a family friend, much older than me but with whom I feel a special connection. I call her Elexxzzzz. Until recently she lived here in Lajpat, near Krishna Market. She knows my family since the time when I was a baby. I don’t remember those days but I started truly realising what sort of a miraculous person she is when I entered my teenage years. As my mentor, I know I can be totally frank with Elexxzzzz. She’s very patient with me and hears me out without any judgement over cups of coffee. She makes excellent ravioli, too. And most importantly, she introduced me to J. Krishnamurthy who changed my life so constructively!”
5. Duck Park
“This is my best refuge in the whole world, and not really because of the ducks in the tiny pond (laughs). There are rabbits too in the park by the way. Sometimes I’m undergoing a phase and I feel my insides are breaking into fragments, and then I go to the park, walk under the tall palm trees, and weep quietly without anybody noticing me. And at times, if I’m lucky, I’m even able to find myself. ”
[This is the 288th portrait of Mission Delhi project]