City Walk – Disappearing Bungalows, Green Park
Going with the wind.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A gate just big enough for a car to pass through. Beyond it, a small lawn on the side, not fanatically trimmed. And then the single-storey house, not modern-looking, but not nostalgically old-fashioned either. It appears to be a child of the late 1970s, when such no-fuss design was said to be in vogue.
This is a residence in Green Park. Until a decade ago it was just an average sight in the leafy south Delhi colony. But now it stands out for being less common, though still quite a few of them exist.
Like many genteel Delhi neighbourhoods, Green Park is adapting to the new age. The homes that were originally built to support one household—with at best a barsati on the roof for a single person living on rent—are being pulled down to make way for multi-floor apartments. The ground floors of yesterday are now parking lots for the residents’ cars. Tall walls and immense gates make it impossible to see anything inside. It’s like the gated suburbs have come to the city centre. The modern-day Green Park dwellers are rarely sighted outside their gleaming fortresses, unless you decide to get jalebis at the nearby Evergreen Sweets or the imported Camembert at the nearby Modern Bazaar supermarket.
This evening, one of these lanes is mostly empty. The few people you get to see are uniformed security guards outside the new sleek edifices, or construction labourers working in one of the sites of a former house. A few of the old houses are empty—one is in ruins.
The new residences have no uniformity in their aesthetics. Some are moderately elegant, others betray too much ambition in their extravagance. The white one near the Jagannath Temple, though, is very minimal, with straight stern lines—it looks so international that it’s as if you were in a gentrified neighbourhood of any city of the world.
Besides a turning, a house is being demolished. By now it’s mostly a hill of bricks and cement. Four labourers are dispersed about a concrete crusher.
A few steps away stands another of those one-storey houses, with a Fiat Padmini parked inside. It evokes a time when each financially-secured family had just one car, one TV, and one landline phone. Green Park still has some of these time capsules.