City Hangout - Khan Market Updates, Central Delhi

City Hangout – Khan Market Updates, Central Delhi

City Hangout - Khan Market Updates, Central Delhi

Last houses.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The Khan Market sunset is seldom noticed. The sightings of the famous and the fashionable, strolling along the lanes, take away attention from the twilight sky.

Then there is the market’s other sunset. It too is seldom noticed, though it has long been gathering about the market’s original character. Khan Market started with 154 shops and 75 flats. That was in 1951. The year 2024 began with only five of those flats, all the rest having slipped into history. One of the flats, a market tattletale informs, was vacated a few weeks ago. It too might be replaced by a cafe or a showroom.

Named after the freedom fighter Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s elder brother Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan, the market is among India’s most exclusive spaces. It teems with Gucci, Prada, Burberry and Rolex sartorialists. In the car parking, Porsche sightings are normal.

The beginning was humbler.

All the Khan Market shops used to be on the ground floor, and the flats used to be on the first floor. Until the 1980s, the flats were homes to mostly middle-class Punjabi entrepreneurs–though one of them was politician Jag Pravesh Chandra, who lived in what is today Punjab Grill restaurant. Gradually, the market crept into the makaan. Most households moved out after selling or renting out their flats. There were many reasons—the families were expanding, the market was becoming noisier, etc. Initially, the two-room residences would be sold for mere thousands of rupees. That figure increased to lakhs. Those who didn’t sell ended up sitting on gold mines. Most of those lucky ones too left, eventually.

It is now impossible to imagine the homely world of Khan Market’s first-floor residents. That was an era when naughty bachhe-log would jump across roofs to visit each other’s houses, boys would play cricket in the middle lane, and “uncle ji” and “aunty ji” would be known by their house numbers. For a birthday party, a “mummy” in this or that flat might order pakode from Raj Sweet Shop or mithai from Bengal Sweets (Goyal’s Sweet was the last choice). Today, there is Ladurée from Paris, but not one laddu ki dukan.

Whatever, the last surviving houses of Khan Market, their dull doorways sandwiched between frou-frou shops, are keeping alive the flame of its native spirit.