City Times – The Connaught Place Facelift
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Botox shot for Delhi’s heart.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Without creating any noise, hype, fuss or traffic jams, central Delhi is re-inventing itself. From Platform No.1 of New Delhi Railway Station and Connaught Place’s C-block to Gole Market, the entire area, as on May, 2009, is in the midst of a makeover.
If the outer façade of the railway station looks toothpaste white, then many portions of the colonial Connaught Place structures are at present hidden behind scaffolding.
Connaught Place – also known as CP or Rajiv Chowk – was constructed by the British in 1929 and was completed four years later. Its Georgian architecture is said to be modeled after the Royal Crescent in Bath, England.
Down the years, both the Inner and Outer Circle of this premier shopping and business district had fallen to decay. Other than the crumbling walls and paan-stained corners, CP was considered unsafe for girls after dark. In evenings, one still sees sex workers enticing customers behind the grand pillars of Outer Circle. Even the respectable Central Park, till a few years ago, had a difficult reputation. It was frequented by homosexuals, eunuchs, and hashish-addicts. However, in 2006, the construction of an underground metro train terminus in the park and its subsequent revamp as a haven for middle class Delhi helped in the disappeareance of those social rejects.
After the social ‘cleanup’, it is now the turn to get rid of physcial eye sores.
In May, 2009, the New Delhi Municipal Council earnestly began work on restoring the façade of the Inner Circle. (They actually finished work on C-block in 2008 but that was a pilot project). Windows are being replaced, walls re-painted, pillars and jaalis restored to their original look. Those shoppers who have recently hopped past blocks A and E must have noticed that the shaded corridors have been barricaded, forcing them to walk out under a hot sun. Not many mind, though. “A little inconvenience for a better look tomorrow is okay with me,” says Ms Nalini Shah, a Raja Garden resident who comes to CP at least twice a month.
The physically disabled have not been ignored in the restoration plans. Since the beginning of 2009, fourteen ramps have been built in the Inner Circle and Central Park.
While the restoration is a larger project, primarily aimed at sprucing up Delhi in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, major standalone landmarks in CP, too, will soon get a new look. What used to be the popular Nirula’s outlet at L-block will soon house Haldiram’s. Similarly, the renovation of the grimy Odeon cinema is almost complete. The building’s white colour is blinding under the summer sun, while the walking space outside the theatre is all smooth and glossy. “We’re opening in the next 2-3 weeks,” says Mr Tushar Dhingra, COO, Big Pictures, which is managing the theatre.
Not far from here, a large patch of ground next to the Shivaji Stadium bus terminus is teeming with labourers and machines. A new state-of-the-art Metro station is coming up there. Close by, the dismal façade of Gole Market — which is in the ‘A’ category of Indian heritage buildings — may finally see renovation after years of legal wrangling. Right now, the central portion of this ‘monument’ could make a good setting for horror films, but it may soon regain the glory it had when the British built it almost a century ago.
Nirula’s history, Halidram’s future; at L-block
Rivoli Cinema, too, had a makeover
CP’s now relatively safer for girls, outside Blues
Though subways may still be risky
The park above Palika Bazaar
CP Dreams, C-block
Its great to see CP being renovated.
Delhi is like my soul , I have spent 23 years here and CP was an integral part of my ventures.Shopping from Janpath to dates in the McDs to visits to HANUMAN MANDIR and GURUDWARA BANGLA SAHIB and those chit chats with friends in Central park, we have experienced everything here .
CP is truly said to be the heart of Delhi and its a great feeling to know that when I will come to Delhi again,I will see a new CP… a newer and healthier heart of Delhi ..
Whether this ends up being a facelift or a simple cover-up still remains to be seen .And just in case CP does come out shining, how long will it stay that way???
Lovely pics, Austen.
liked the last one the best.
i just hope they dont destroy much of the colonial beauty during their experiment, or they get a punch coming from me.
Is the NYT Delhi Bureau in CP?
Whats their addess?
Nice to see the Park finished… in 2006 it was a mess!
Thank you, Austen. When I was in India, I went to CP to reconfirm my Air ticket for my flight to Malaysia. Thank you again for reminding me about India specially CP.
I fail to understand how gol market can be termed as a heritage building. It has no history no architectural beauty and nothing else. It is creating horrible traffic jams for people going out from CP. The amount of pollution it leads to is horrible. It should be immediately razed down and a crossing should be created here.
I remember those days, back when I used to go to CP with my folks, walk around Inner Circle, spend time at Giggles, peruse @ Galgotia, eat roadside sweet potato, buy books from the roadside vendor and go laze in central park, without any metro below me, before catching the 620 back home. Sigh. Delhi will never be the same again.
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