City Walk – Regal Cinema Back Lane, Connaught Place
Not so regal.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The back lane of the Regal cinema building appears timeless. Long before the cinema shut down, in 2017, the area’s architecture already looked as shabby as it does today. The lane has always been composed of colourless buildings — mostly rear portions of edifices that look much better on the other side, the one facing the shopping lanes. Backstairs and AC units have been covering the same back walls for years, like inveterate skin boils. It felt like the place would always stay the same.
And yet, our restless city doesn’t like stability. It builds and destroys and shifts from one place to the other. It takes here to give elsewhere. It creates new places and forgets others. And now, the enduring setting of this forgotten back lane is undergoing its slow metamorphosis.
Take the lunch stall that used to be so crowded before the pandemic — it no longer exists. Further, the pink tiles of the men’s urinal have lost their pink. A brown dog is walking past shuttered storefronts (though it is Wednesday). The lane is empty. It is like being in a city that has been abandoned overnight by its citizens.
For long, despite its dishevelled setting, this lane had been home to a mix of businesses, including of a numerologist. The numerologist’s office is locked. Many of the buildings seem uninhabited. Their windows are blocked with bricks, in the same way the courtesan Anarkali was walled alive by emperor Akbar in the film Mughal-e-Azam. Around the corner used to be the India Coffee Centre, which supplied coffee from south India to the President of India. No sign of it now.
Then there’s a building incompletely draped in protective green nets, indicating some construction activity. Since the structure has been standing here vacant and derelict for many years, one can imagine it is being replaced by something new. A person working in a nearby courier office nods to the assessment. When? He doesn’t know. He points to the tin barricades lining the pavement around the building, without any labourer in sight.
Until recently, the windows of this building would be flapped open at all times, even though the building itself was deserted. Wild creepers would come out of them. But now all windows are shut closed. The green nets are blowing softly in the dusty slow-roasting breeze. There is no sign of any greenery. The tree standing beside the building has no leaves, no birds—perfectly encapsulating the spirit of the place.
Waling through dereliction