City Landmark - Vikram Seth’s Florist, Hazrat Nizamuddin East

City Landmark – Vikram Seth’s Florist, Hazrat Nizamuddin East

A hyperlocal business .

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

One icy noon, two winters ago, a tiny red car halted by a pavement florist. The driver’s door flapped open, a chap emerged. He walked up to the florist, purchased a bouquet, passing it to a hand that emerged out from the car’s backseat window. The hand belonged to a world-famous novelist. Vikram Seth sportingly condescended to be snapped with the flowers (see photo), but didn’t reveal to which suitable person this lucky bunch of red roses and gypsies were intended for.

This wasn’t the florist shop’s only encounter with writer-types. The longtime stall stands close to the longtime home of a legendary literary figure. It is situated just outside the fence of Mughal-era poet Rahim’s garden-tomb. Overlooking the peaceful Rahim Marg, the shop flanks the west-side border of tiptop Nizamuddin East, address of some of the most famous Delhiwale (Vikram Seth has a tomb-facing apartment around the corner, his neighbour includes film-maker Mira Nair, they live within a flower’s throw from the daughter of the last Nawab of Rampur, whose bungalow is a five-minute-walk away from the book-filled flat of sociologist Ashis Nandy, who lives not far from hotelier Aman Nath, whose place is close to the apartment of cultural activist Jaya Jaitly…).

Such a VIP location means that the florist shop regulars include some of these VIPs. “Muhammed Azharuddin!,” exclaims the man at the stall when asked to reveal his favrouite celebrity-customer. The former cricketer lives in the neighbourhood, he says.

Having drastically altered over the recent years, Nizamuddin East has lost almost all its original bungalows, replaced by multi-stories. Neither is it any longer exclusively residential. Every other block turns out to have a lawyer’s office. Two aspects of the place have, however, stayed unchanged during this transition. Poet Rahim’s tomb—built in the 16th century, and restored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture in 2020; and this florist shop—co-founded 35 years ago by zila Pratapgarh natives Ram Krishen Verma and Ayodhya Prasad (see other photo).

Fellows of the same village, they actually set up two flower shops, the other was in nearby Sunder Nagar, which shut down during the peak Covid years. Ram Krishen passed away in 2012, leaving his share of the business to son, Surya Bhan. The third person in the shop is soft-spoken Pradip, sometimes sighted walking along the neighbourhood lanes, holding bouquets and flowers, home-delivering them to customers.

Now, a long white car halts by the florist. The glass of the backseat window slides down. A face peers out—seems very familiar but momentarily difficult to place. Hidden behind dark glasses, the gaze turns to stacks of water-sprinkled chrysanthemums, carnations, lilies, daisies, gladulas and rajnigandhas.