City Hangout - Friendly Faces, New Friends Colony

City Hangout – Friendly Faces, New Friends Colony

City Hangout - Friendly Faces, New Friends Colony

Different perspectives.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Are folks in New Friends Colony (NFC) friendlier? Seems so—at least in the market. The NFC Community Centre is an archipelago of interconnected plazas dense with mehendi stalls, cake shops, chai houses (shout out to Juhi’s Tea, the adda with 14 varieties of chai options!), eateries, groceries, stationeries, and denim outlets bearing grandiloquent names like Fashion Point-The Hub. Beyond these bazar businesses lie the bazar faces. Say salam-namaste to three friendly folks of New Friends. Their presence fortifies the Community Centre’s quirkiness, a trait borne out of the commingling of big city commerce with small town apnapan.

The juice walla
The friendly man’s modestly named Juice Corner is across the road from the Community Centre, at the turning to Lotus Tower, under a pakar tree. The fruit drinks are made fresh, but the place has something more going for it, something inexplicably special. Suddenly the penny drops. It is Harishchandra Patel’s smile—sweet, cheery, uplifting. “If I don’t greet a customer with pyar and muskan, how will my dukandari last,” he wonders aloud, preparing musambi juice for two weary beat constables—the stall is right beside the signage to New Friends Colony Police Station.

The books walla
“Call me kitab walla,” he says softly. The friendly Sheikh Imamuddin is the Community Centre’s living monument. The elderly gent set up his bookstall “around the time the market came up… in the 1980s when Grindlays Cinema opened.” Imamuddin had launched his stall as a newspaper stand, introducing magazines in the 1990s. “People used to line up to get the latest Stardust and India Today.” As the golden age of magazines faded, he remarks, he shifted to mass market paperbacks. This evening, Imamuddin is wrapping the newly received books in plastic covers to protect them from bird droppings. He points to the culprits above—birds perched atop the branches in the luscious peepal, the tree that years ago he had planted.

The future walla
The friendly man in saffron robes sits all day long facing a cake shop, silent and serene. Astrologer Prahlad helps people get a sense of their future by studying their “rashi” and “pachang.” His desk on the plaza floor comprises of a chowki on which lies a few books, a gigantic magnifying glass, and a Ganesh murti. The astrologer set up his establishment in the market after the harsh Covid years. He had arrived in Delhi from Pushkar town to support his son who was finishing his MA in Sanskrit from the nearby Jamia Millia Islamia University. “The boy is unable to find a job deserving of his qualification… I’m helping him to take up my profession, which is the profession of our forefathers.” Meantime, Prahlad says, he is finding a sense of satisfaction in New Friends. “People respect me, they appreciate my learning, I’m able to earn.“ He now looks up at the slender tree (insufficient shade!), and turns to an adjacent vendor, asking just which tree it is.

Friends of New Friends

1. Harishchandra Patel

City Hangout - Friendly Faces, New Friends Colony

2. Sheikh Imamuddin

City Hangout - Friendly Faces, New Friends Colony

3. Prahlad

City Hangout - Friendly Faces, New Friends Colony