When CP was home to many | delhi | Hindustan Times
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When CP was home to many

It wasn't always only about just shopping and eating out in the Connaught Circus. Today's central business district once played host to many families who had moved to houses in Connaught Place. But over the decades, very few residents remain. A peek into the past.

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2011 13:29 IST
Avishek G. Dastidar

For eight decades, Connaught Place has not just been a veritable shopping destination. For a handful of families, it has also meant home.

In 1933, when the two-storey colonnade complex was thrown open, the British intended the first floor to be residential quarters.

And a few families, by and large business houses from the Walled City area, took the chance and bought flats mostly overlooking the picturesque central park.

Built with lavish, airy living space including open-air courtyards, verandahs and English-style bedrooms strung together in Georgian architecture, the quarters were enviable property.

Newspaper reports from 1933 to 36 show that for landlords, extracting "occupation certificates" from the municipal authorities was a big deal then, as that would entitle them to rents.

"A three-room flat with a kitchen and bath will cost Rs 45 a month, taxes extra. Flats on the first floor are either too costly or cannot be had because they are either too costly or are not vacant," a Hindustan Times report says.

A write-up by columnist RL Rau says that "high-end flats" at Regal building or Scindia House were so sought after that tenants had had booked them months in advance even before they were complete.

"This was a great place to live. It was centrally located, the park was a nice place surrounded by glitzy shops. Traffic was easygoing, unlike now," says RC Sharma, owner of parts of E Block, who was born in Connaught Circus in 1936.

Sharma remembers the spacious footpaths of the inner circle were apt for leisurely strolls and window shopping; a joy the residents have forgotten since ages.

Life in CP was always under pressure to strike a balance between the commercial needs and the demands from its residents.

Records show that by 1936, the New Delhi Municipal Committee was still considering proposals to build public toilets near CP, and that demands from residents made them bring up a library and art gallery.

On the other hand, "letters to the editor" columns in Hindustan Times were flooded with complaints that the civic authority was shutting down shops of daily needs like wheat, rice, flour, species, etc., set up at Barakhamba Road, Haily Road and Keeling Road.

"The Municipality has also driven out pet cows from houses….. Municipality is not known to have much sympathy for the requirements of citizens," wrote an angry resident.