City Neighbourhood – Last Bungalows, Hazrat Nizamuddin East
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Thak, thak, thak. The dusty air is reverberating with the sound of continued hammering. The source of the clatter is a white bungalow, here in Nizamuddin East.
The bungalow is being demolished. Three-four labourers are hammering at walls and ceilings. One diligent hammer is about to bring down a fireplace any moment now. Very unlikely that in these times of climate change, the city would see new fireplaces.
The man supervising the demolition says that an apartment complex is to replace the bungalow. This ground floor, he mutters, shall become a parking lot for the new occupants. His eyes darting down a wall, the man suddenly notices an intersecting tapestry of threadbare lines—termites!
The bungalow’s courtyard is littered with dismantled doors and windows. The room next to the courtyard has a wall covered with sketchy multi-coloured depictions of sceneries and animals, probably a child’s doing. A 2022 calendar is hanging.
A spirally staircase goes up to the sprawling roof, currently soaked in soothing winter sunshine. You half-expect to be suddenly surrounded by the bungalow’s former inhabitants noisily enjoying the warmth of the mild December sun. The roof must have been a summer refuge as well—half of it is claimed by a neem tree’s shade.
The bungalow used to directly face another bungalow, which stood just across the road. That old house was demolished a year ago. An apartment complex is coming up on its site. The new landmark is almost ready, draped in a green net. Most of the labourers who were working—and living—on the construction site have left. Their barefoot children would play with cement and bricks on the roadside all day long (the children of permanent Nizamuddin East residents play in the locality’s manicured gardens).
Further ahead was another bungalow, razed down a month or two ago. A new multi-storey is coming up.
A world-famous novelist lives just some houses away. Every room in his prized apartment is said to posses a panoramic view of either the world-famous Humayun’s tomb, which lies next-door to Nizamuddin East, or the less-famous Rahim’s tomb, which virtually lies within the “colony.” That writer’s block too stands on a site where once lived a bungalow.
Bye bye, bungalows