City Hangout – People Watching, Khan Market
Humans and dogs.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Look at the gentleman entering the pricey patisserie. Isn’t he the revisionist historian who creates frequent Twitter tornadoes? And now appears another familiar face (okay, mask!). This must be the lady who used to dutifully show up at pre-pandemic embassy parties. She is followed by… he, too, seems like a well-known somebody.
Delhiites come to Khan Market to see and be seen. The market’s Front Lane, especially, is one of the rare truly democratic places in the city where you can come in extremely close proximity with the Capital’s rich and powerful. But the place for a perfect Front Lane watch is not by hanging out on the lane. That only gives you a sideways view of the upper crust set.
The ideal spot is to sit on the low, brick platform by the market gate (next to the police kiosk with computer screens showing details of missing persons). Over there, you are separated from the lane by the market road, and you are in a position for a panoramic view of the lane and the interesting people walking around.
On this cold evening, admittedly, there aren’t many faces/masks to watch. Like the rest of the city, the market is reeling under the third wave of the pandemic. Restaurants and coffee shops are closed for dine-ins (what is to become of all those friendly doormen?). Showrooms are opening on an even-odd basis. Yet, a few people are busily going about the lane in thoughtfully coordinated winter dresses. One grey-haired woman looks very familiar. Like most famous people seen in Khan Market, she is determinedly avoiding eye contact. Beside her, two young people are chatting loudly in English — with gun-toting guards in safari suit a discreet distance away. They might be some politician’s children.
But there’s more to the Front Lane than its rich and famous visitors. For, suddenly the area comes alive with barks. Parking attendant Shamimuddin is laying out meal plates for the market’s stray dogs — Jhabra, Cheetah, Tara, Raxie, Bhola, Kalu and Lali — right on the platform you are sitting on. The dogs are served meat and rice twice daily, along with toned Mother Dairy milk in the evening (courtesy, a kind showroom owner), he says.
Meanwhile, a masked lady in a blue handloom sari is standing in front of the foreign magazine stall (with barely any foreign magazine there since the pandemic began). She resembles thumri singer Vidya Rao (film star Aditi Rao Hydari’s mum!). Let’s get a closer look.
PS: While some people say Khan Market is very expensive, its best chai costs only 10 rupees. Served by JP, the friendly vendor who frequently pops up on the Front Lane with his kettle and hand-held tower of paper glasses. You are recommended to try out his piping hot tea during your people-watching spell.
The Front Lane sightseeing