City Obituary – People Tree, Connaught Place
Passing of an era.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Such a teeny-weeny dukan, but it fashioned a subculture, and became a Connaught Place icon. Some may even call it a Delhi institution. And now People Tree at 8, Regal Building, is shutting down. The Goa-based co-founder Orijit Sen announced on Tuesday.
For 33 years, People have been grooming people from across the capital region and beyond into a kind of alternative styling, though this style has turned so mainstream in certain circles that you can’t honestly call it alternative. Even so, the funkiness hasn’t dimmed. A typical People Tree look tends to be gender-fluid and might include any permutation from these—oversized T-shirts, large kurtas, long skirts, jholas, cloth wallets, brass wrist bands, brass earrings, etc. But please don’t ask for the boutique’s most common design motifs. Each upset loyalist will then challenge that list by their own prejudiced recollections. (Although a few of us must confess of buying a rare kurta, or jhola, printed with a smarty slogan against the world’s injustices, and then heading straight to next-door Jantar Mantar, back in the days when it was India’s premium protest site).
The backroom bookstore was even more alternative, stacked with unheard of titles like Four Arguments for The Elimination of Television. It permanently closed during the first lockdown.
This weekday noon, staffer Raju claims every object in the shop to be handmade, some of which happen to be his creations. Now packing a parcel, now writing a receipt, the amiable gent confirms in a drama-less tone that the shop is to end its long run by the month’s end.
So, while the merchandise will still be sold online, there will no longer be such a quirky youthful space in old venerable CP, crammed with all these colourful block print casuals, super-eclectic mask cushions, cross-stitch bags, jute-bound notepads, rose-shaped hair clips, and a grisly terracotta bell whose two clappers are shaped after a headless man’s dangling legs!
We’ll also no longer be able to gaze, again and again, at the painted peacock on the ceiling (why isn’t this fabric-made stunner on sale!), or the magnificent fish-shaped tile art on the floor. The charming trial room, obviously a kitchenette in another life, will also be missed.
Earlier in the morning, when the shop was still locked, three longtime loyalists gathered outside the glass door as if attending a wake. They agreed to pose for a farewell portrait—see last photo. From left: Kritika, development consultant in Delhi; Abismita, PhD scholar in Oxford University; Devangna, a book cover designer in Bangalore.
Bye bye, People