City Landmark – Tajuddin Vegetable Shop, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
Here veggies meet art.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The plastic container, filled with neatly stacked green shimla mirch, is defying gravity by clinging vertically to the wall. Little plastic packets, containing corn, are hooked along the wall like the procession of a caravan. The bitter karelas, on the other side, are arranged in stand-up position inside another gravity-defying container. And then there are the humble laukis, hanging individually in front of the counter like a row of chandeliers in a hotel lobby.
This has to one of Delhi’s most eye-catching vegetable stalls. The fresh veggies are arranged artistically, as if great amount of thought and planning had gone into the execution of the display. It is proper manners at this point, in this piece, to send a grateful shout-out to many other stalls, whose owners deck up their products with care and love—the attractive layouts obeying to themes of colors, shapes, and types of veggies.
Tajuddin Vegetable Shop in central Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, however, lifts the art of showcasing vegetables to greater sophistication. The effect is so intense that the awestruck spectator is convinced that the person behind this exhibit must be an aesthete of high order. With some shyness, veggie seller Mohsin Qureshi confesses “I built the new arrangement ahista-ahista (slowly), over several days.” In his 30s, the father of two is seated on the stall’s chair behind the counter, his hands placed on his laps. Dressed in a black jacket and cap, he gestures towards his elder brother standing on the street, after whom the establishment gets its name. Of unhurried calm demeanour, the gentlemanly Tajuddin founded the shop almost 25 years ago, here on the intersection of three narrow by-lanes, beside the Nal Wali Masjid (the nal, or the tap, has been long lost to history).
The shop’s new look is a month-old baby. Tajuddin notes that these days almost every visitor is gushing at the decoration. “Usually, when people stop by to get gaajar, mooli or tamatar, they just want to rush back home quickly, but then they gradually start to notice…”
Mr Mohsin recalls the intense admiration of his close friends. “Akbar, who runs a restaurant in the Basti; Shanu, who is a businessman; Feroze who has a job in Lajpat Nagar… they all gave full marks to my styling.” Tajuddin confirms that his younger brother is kind of a black sheep in the family, with his innate sense of elegance. Mr Mohsin shows mobile phone photos of his home (situated close-by in “Karim Hotel Wali lane”) in which he recently made alterations to a room. A new mirror stands out, consisting of a series of small mirrors.
The brothers have six married sisters. They all come to visit their mother every Sunday. Since the women prefer to stay in purdah, they haven’t personally come to see the shop’s acclaimed appearance. “But last Sunday I did a video call with all of them on the mobile and showed the dukaan,” says Mr Mohsin. The sisters gushed over the props, especially at the hanging laukis.
Indeed, every person interested in how artists rustle out art from the ordinariness of their everyday life ought to visit this stall. It opens daily from 6 am to 10 pm. And while here, look out for the peacock feathers crowning a bunch of lettuce leaves.