Manoj Sharma, along with HT lensmen Raj K Raj and Virendra Singh Gosain, indulges in some window shopping to find out what has made them so special all these years...
Ram Chandra and Sons, 1935
The history of this shop which has been in CP since 1935 goes back to more than 120 years. It is perhaps India’s oldest toy store. The shop was set by Raj Sunder who came to Delhi from from Kasauli.
“My father was looking for expansion. Those days traders looked either at Delhi or Lahore for expansion; my father chose Delhi,” says Satish Sundra, 74. He now runs the shop with his son.
Enter the shop and you see toys of all kinds and make — model aircrafts, dolls, battery-operated cars et al. The Gandhis, Scindias, Pataudis and Goenkas have also been its clients. “Indira Gandhi bought toys from us for Sanjay and Rajiv Gandhi, and then Rajiv and Sonia for their children,” says Sundra, who is a walking encyclopedia on toys. The father-son duo are students of St Stephens.
Set up in 1937, it is one of the oldest establishments in CP. For the past seven decades, Novex has been one of the most sought after dry cleaners of New Delhi. The firm was established by KM Bhargava and RN Bhargava who came from Mathura.
Today, run by RN Bhargava’s sons Atul and YN Bhargava, this establishment, which has also diversified into retail garment business boasts of many illustrious customers. “BK Nehru and Indira Gandhi have been our clients. We were the official dry cleaners for former presidents Dr Zakir Hussain and VV Giri,” says Atul Bhargava, who is also the chief of NDTA.
Novex was also the official dry cleaners for the Asian Games 1982. That the family has taken their business seriously is evident from the fact that both the brothers have studied dry cleaning in London.
Dhoomi Mal Gallery, 1936
Dhoomi Mal Gallery (DMG) is city’s first art gallery. It was started in 1936 from a shop in CP that sold art material and stationary by Ram Chandra Jain, who owned a printing press in the Walled City. In those days, it was more of a meeting place for artists and art connoisseurs.
In fact, art lovers from across the country visited the gallery in the 1940s. The gallery has had visitors such as former Presidents Dr Rajendra Prasad and Dr Zakir Hussain, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In the mid-40s, the gallery hosted group shows of artists such as Sailoz Mookherjea, KS Kulkarni, Shanti Dev and Vimal Das Gupta.
“In the 30s, there was no place in the city where the artists could display their work and meet. It has been our tradition to promote good art and artists,” says Uma Jain, who runs the gallery.
Vaish at Rivoli, 1939
In the past 70 years, this shop at Rivoli Cinema has been one of the most sought after tailoring destinations in the Capital by the rich, famous and the royals. It has boasted of illustrious clients, including Maharaja of Jaipur, Maharaja of Rampur, Dr BR Ambedkar, etc.
The shop was established by OP Vaish in 1939, who came to Delhi from a village near Meerut. Today, the shop is run by his son Ashok Vaish, who still practices bespoke tailoring as a fine art. “When my father started his workshop in CP , there were very few takers for shops in CP. He was 19 at that time and knew nothing about tailoring,” says Ashok Vaish. Both Ashok and his father learnt tailoring from the prestigious Tailor & Cutter academy in London in 1970 and 1950 respectively.
Indian Arts Palace, 1935
This ethnic gems, jewellery and art shop has a 200-year-old history. The CP branch of the shop, which was already in Chandni Chowk and Kashmere Gate, was opened in 1935. The shop has been a favourite haunt of collectors from all over the world and boasts of viceroys, maharajas , diplomats and industrialists among its clients. Nita Ambani and John D Rockefeller III, the American oil magnate, have also visited this CP shop.
Enter the shop and you see old paintings and photographs on the walls; gems and jewellery, jade carvings displayed in wooden cabinets that are more than 100 years old.
“We have miniature paintings dating back to the 12th century; photographs from 1850s, Mughal and Rajput period jewellery and other items. Not only art collectors but museums have also been buying art from us,” says SS Backliwal, managing partner of the shop.
Mahatta & Company, 1947
Capital’s first full service photography store was opened in CP in 19 47 by Amarnath Mehta. However, its history goes back to 1915. Amarnath Mehta who arrived in Delhi from Srinagar after Partition started out of a small counter in the corridor.
At that time CP was full of iconic photo studios such as Kinsey Brothers, Delhi Photo Studio, but the Mahatta & Company — they were called so as the Britishers could not pronounce their name (Mehta) properly — soon created a name for themselves.
“Initially, our clients were mostly armymen and over the years, we became famous for matrimonial photography. I was probably the first one to have been trained in photography in England,” says Madan Mehta, 78.