Delhiwale: A Roop Nagar house for the ages
Vij Bhawan, a two-storied house in Roop Nagar, was built in 1955. It is home to three generations of 16 family members.delhi Updated: Jun 14, 2017 12:15 IST
They don’t make such houses any longer.
We are at Vij Bhawan in north Delhi’s Roop Nagar. The bungalow is home to three brothers: Yashpal, Vishwanath and Ram Prakash. The fourth brother, Lali, is no more.
The two-storied house consists of 17 rooms and five kitchens. It is home to three generations of 16 family members.
In their book Social Aging in a Delhi Neighborhood, authors John Van Willigen and NK Chadha say that Roop Nagar and its nearby ‘colonies’ Shakti Nagar, Kamla Nagar, and Vijay Nagar “provided housing to the people who were part of a dramatic increase in Delhi’s population following Partition”.
Chuni Lal Vij, the family’s patriarch, was a part of the stream of migrants who settled in the capital. He moved to Delhi from Amritsar, in 1942, and anchored in the city with a jewellery business in Chandni Chowk. Bratha Ji Di Hatti Jewellers no longer exists. The jeweller’s sons took up other professions.
Vij Bhawan was built in 1955. It was designed by TR Mahendru, the architect behind buildings such as Gangaram Hospital and Hans Raj College. Although a substantial part of the house has undergone renovations, it has been allowed to retain a few souvenirs of the past.
The staircase of chipped marble looks dignified. Its solidity appears to represent the deeply entrenched foundations of the family.
The wooden door with its old-fashioned latch, the similarly old-fashioned electric switchboards, the Singer sewing machine with its wooden cover, the red Godrej refrigerator, the gently curving lampshades, the sparsely designed teak chairs, and the old taps in the bathroom have not been replaced.
Another beautiful feature of the house is the verandah at the back. Although it has substantially reduced in size due to construction of additional rooms over the years, the remaining open space symbolises the determination of the Vij family to hold on to fragments of their early years in Delhi.