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HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

Humble roots of the now posh south Delhi

Manoj Sharma, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 22, 2011
First Published: 23:10 IST(22/11/2011) | Last Updated: 23:28 IST(22/11/2011)

Several housing, institutional and public buildings had come up in the Capital during the 1950s and '60s. In the 1970s, one of the defining changes in the physical landscape of the city was the arrival of high-rise buildings in Connaught Place. Moreover, it was in this decade that south Delhi truly came into its own.

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CP's skyline changed
In the '70s, there was a scramble among businesses to acquire a space in Connaught Place, where the first and second floor flats had been residences for hundreds of families for over three decades.

With rapid commercialisation, most of these families either rented out their flats or sold them and moved to various south Delhi colonies, such as Hauz Khas and Green Park.

But CP alone could not meet the rising demand for commercial space in the heart of the city. So many Lutyens bungalows on Barakhamba Road and Curzon Road gave way to the city's first high-rises such as Kailash Building, Himalaya House, Kanchenjunga Building, Akashdeep Building and others. By the late '70s, downtown New Delhi had acquired a skyline, and Connaught Place had become the city's central business district.

"Many people loathed these new high-rises. But the shops and restaurants in the area benefited as they now had a whole new set of office-goers as clients," said Satish Sundra of Ram Chander & Sons, the city's oldest toy store in CP.

Initially, one could take space on lease in these high-rises for just R2-3 per sq. feet and buy offices at just R67-80 sq. feet. However, the reserved car parking rates in these new skyscrapers were quite high at R100 to R150 per month for a single car.

Thanks to rapid commercialisation, by the late '70s, CP used to see a lot of traffic with cars such as Ambassadors, Fiat and Standard Herald. Then there were DTC buses and fat-fats (Harley-Davidson motorcycles modified into large autos), Lambretta scooters and bicycles. 

Southern Comfort
Many south Delhi colonies such as Hauz Khas, Green Park and South Extension were established in the '60s. It was only in the '70s, however, that they started flourishing.

South Extension became one of the most happening places of the Capital. "The garment shops, bookshops and restaurants of South Extension were different from those in Connaught Place in terms of window display and interiors, which had a modern look," said DN Chaudhury, 79, who lived in Kailash Colony in the '70s.

Even GK-I's M-block market boasted of shops and restaurants such as Hong Kong that were being patronised by the ever-increasing population of south Delhi.

The 1970s was also the decade when 'colony-living' evolved, though there were not many RWAs in those days.

"In the spaces between the houses — the parks, the markets, the tree-shaded street corner — developed relationships and mutual dependencies, which were usually harmonious, only occasionally spilling into acrimony," says author Ranjana Sengupta in her book Delhi Metropolitan.

Socialising in the '70s was mostly family-centric. "In the early '70s, our outings were limited to occasional visits to relatives. Once a month, we would go to India Gate and CP. My family used to travel by a Lambretta scooter in death-defying fashion. My father would drive with me standing on the floorboard in front of him and my mother seated pillion, holding my younger brother," said Rajendra Kumar, 46.

Those were the days when the number of cars was still limited and most middle-class families relied on Lambretta and Vespa scooters. The delivery of these sought-after scooters took almost a year after they were booked.

Of fashion and fast-food
The '70s was also the decade that saw the beginning of the fast food revolution, thanks to the Nirula's Group, which opened a pastry shop, snack bar, hot shoppe and '21 flavours' ice cream parlour in the city. It also opened Potpourri with the city's first salad bar in 1978.

The decade also saw a shift in the sartorial sense of the city. Wearing jeans became fashionable with youngsters teaming them with bright kurtas bought from Khadhi Gram Udyog.

This was also the decade when Fab India opened its first outlet in N-Block market of GK.

Moreover, the decade also saw the 'polyster revolution' with safari suits becoming hugely popular with Delhiites.


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