City Monument – An Old Fridge, The Oriental Fruit Mart
A souvenir that survives.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This shop is one of the oldest surviving landmarks in Connaught Place. Everything — except the fruits, cookies, protein chocolates and wasabi peas — looks like a collectible.
The wood panelling, display cabinet, clock, even the floor, are as old as the 1935 store. The only major concession to modernity at The Oriental Fruit Mart in E-block is the introduction of automatic sliding doors in 2011.
You ought to come here to admire all these old things. And what you have to see under all circumstances is a most heritage-worthy item — the fridge!
It doesn’t look like a refrigerator at all and it’s been here since the 1940s. It is possibly Delhi’s longest surviving refrigerator (holler if yours is older than this).
Tucked at one end of the shop, the fridge looks like a giant cupboard. The shop has other modern fridges as well, but you really feel its impact felt when you realize it’s been humming along for more than 60 years.
“It was imported from Europe,” says the shop’s owner Mohinder Pal, whose father founded the shop. Now Mr Pal runs the old landmark with his sons — Jitender and Ravinder. The three men are so polite to customers and talk so softly that you want to ask them, “Which city do you think you live in?”
Lingering here feels like being in a shop seeped in old-world graciousness often found in the most genteel parts of colonial-era hill stations.
Mr Pal opens the ancient fridge for The Delhi Walla. It’s filled with nuts, chocolates and spices. “We use the fridge to keep our buffer stock.”
A freezer at the bottom is filled with mineral water bottles. “The freezer, too, came inbuilt with the fridge,” the owner says.
The fridge’s inscribed name is Perfecold — on Googling, I find a dissolved Californian business entity by this name incorporated in 1943.
Soon, the shop gets busy with customers. Not one of them notices the fridge, but it’s there, humming along as always.
When the monument is a fridge