City Walk – Hauz Khas Village at Midnight, South Delhi
Sensing the village life.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
How could such a small neighbourhood have so many layers?
Hauz Khas Village in South Delhi is not only known for its clubs. As well as boutiques, galleries, curio shops and monuments. But it has even more to offer during a late-night stroll along its lanes.
Tonight one might stumble upon poignant contrasts befitting a large city suffering from huge disparities.
A boutique with glass walls is well lit, providing a clear glimpse of extravagant clothing costing a fortune. Outside the shop sits an elderly homeless man begging for a few coins.
Further along the lane are friendly young men insisting the pedestrians to patronize the clubs and restaurants they’re working for. Some of these earnest folks are rudely rebuffed by preoccupied passersby prompting one to wonder about the detriments of such a career.
Mind you. Like many Delhi neighbourhoods, Hauz Khas Village has remained the same for centuries and yet, in some respects, has changed drastically within a single decade–from very hip to just so-so.
What used to be an upscale French patisserie has been converted into a very affordable burger joint with a very cheesy name (and it has veg. samosa burger!). And a well-known tea house once hosting cool gigs until the wee hour is now just a typical eatery. In fact right now, it’s drowned in darkness. Meantime, a hugely popular coastal cuisine café has long become history.
Most stores and cafés on this late night walk are inevitably lying shuttered, so it’s hard to tell whether they’re old or new or permanently closed. But—the sound of devotional bhajans is streaming from an unlit Hanuman temple compound. You feel as though you’re in, well, a real village snuggled deep within the country’s rural cow belt. It’s magical inside the mandir; everything is submerged in semi-darkness with the group of singers looking like a scene from a centuries-old painting.
Then there are those famous 14th century monuments of Hauz Khas. Looking as iffy as myths, they lend the Village its primal beauty.