City Landmark – Victor Bros, Connaught Place
A quieter world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Don’t cry for poor dear CP (Connaught Place). The colonial-era commercial district, that world of stately white columns and louvred windows, is now a 21st century muddle of uniformly similar restaurants, pubs and cafés. Even so, CP still contains some old landmarks that give us a hint of its early character.
Victor Bros is one of those very few survivors.
Founded in 1972, it is not as old as CP, but it does retain the flavour of Old CP, that mythical Shangri-La of dignity and manners where everyone must have picked at their pakoris with forks. Bathed in a dim orange light, this Kashmiri handicraft store in E-block is a sprawling hall covered with a frayed dhurrie (rug). The shelves are filled with rugs and shawls, furry caps and miniature Taj Mahals, but the overall feeling is of uncluttered vastness. The world of Café Coffee Day, Junkyard Café and Office Office (that’s a night club!) seems to belong to a different continent.
The atmosphere is so subdued that you too might end up talking in hushed tones. The only dominating (but not intrusive) sound is that of the ceiling fans.
The owner, Mushtaq Lanker, takes pride in his shop having no air conditioners. He also finds happiness in the Allwyn refrigerator purchased 35 years ago. “Everything is gone from Connaught Place,” he says, shaking his head. “People came to Connaught Place to see decorum and great dignity. Now we are left with hawkers and (drug) addicts and coffee shops.”
Mr Lanker says his clientele comprises foreign tourists; he rarely sees Indians visiting the shop. In fact, it remains empty for long stretches. “I spend those hours in meditation.”
You, however, don’t have to be spiritually-inclined to savor the atmosphere of this showroom. You don’t even have to be interested in Kashmir. Come with a book and spend hours here–that’s fine with the kind owner.
The peaceful Kashmir