From Sarita Vihar, a narrow lane leads you to Madanpur Khadar village. Here, the scene is quite different from the well-planned colony. The streets are packed with houses, some have been renovated and turned into multi-storey builder flats, others still boast of old arches and wooden doors. The village is believed to be more than 100 years old and retains its rural charm despite being surrounded by key industrial areas and urbanised localities.
Out of the seven mohallas here, four are dominated by Gujjars and one by Chauhans. There are six chaupals (community spaces) in the village, where panchayat meetings used to take place to till some time ago to resolve family issues and social disputes. Now, the chaupals are used for weddings and yoga classes. Village elderly sit here for hours, talking or playing cards.
The village has been home to 10 generations of Mahender Singh Bidhuri’s family. All of them were farmers and worked in adjoining agricultural lands. They cultivated different crops like rice, wheat and maize. Bidhuri, 63, says, “Due to development , our traditional profession of farming has seen a decline. But this has not affected our lifestyle, the community bonding remains the same.”
Bidhuri said there were more than 20 wells in the village. But over the years, these either dried up or became unfit to use. “The remaining wells have been protected by a fence. Old hand pumps, no longer in use, are located near these wells. As kids we used to have a lot of fun while drawing water from the wells,” he said.
Over the years, people working in areas like Okhla, Mohan Estate, Noida and Faridabad have found affordable housing here, changing the demography and economics of the village. Pamphlets announcing rooms for rent can be found pasted on walls and poles. The villagers now make additional income by renting spare rooms with rent starting from as low as Rs 1,700 per month.
Bidhuri said the village attracts migrants because of the low rent. He recalls that earlier the village comprised small houses and vast agricultural fields. The scenario changed when Sarita Vihar came up in the late 1980s. The growth of nearby industrial areas brought in more workers and the farmers let out rooms for extra income.
Kartar Singh, 66, another resident, remembers the days when the village children attended the only school in the locality. His classmates came from Tughlakabad, Aali village and Jasola. “My friends would walk or cycle several kilometres to reach the school. That time there were neither proper roads nor transport. The village began transforming in 1980s,” he said.
When farmers began giving out rooms on rent, the first tenants consisted of workers from factories in Okhla. A majority of them were from Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. By 1990s, small food stalls and grocery stores began opening on the streets so that tenants no longer had to go outside the village for daily items.
Ravi Tiwari, 42, a migrant from Patna, came here in 2004. For the next five years, he lived in a rented room. His roommates kept changing but all of them were migrant workers like him. Every morning, before going to work, they would eat samosas and bread pakoras at a nearby eatery. After returning at night, they would have dinner at other food stalls. These outlets would open in the afternoon and operated till late in the night. They provided pocket-friendly meals.
“In the past few years, dhabas have opened and some have started tiffin service. The price of food has gone up. Now a simple thali costs Rs 60. People like me cannot afford it. So, I brought my wife here three years ago. We cook at home to cut expenses,” said Ravi.
The rent of the rooms that was between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000 till late 1990s has now gone up to Rs 7,000.
“The rooms in old houses are cheaper as compared to the rooms in the new multi-storey houses. Most of the owners live on the ground floor, and the rest of the rooms are rented out,” he said.
Despite the escalating rent, Madanpur Khadar is popular among the lower middle-class. Apart from its proximity to industrial areas, medical and education facilities are also nearby. The nearest hospital, Indraprastha Apollo in Jasola Vihar, is barely 20 minutes away. The opening of Sarita Vihar Metro station in 2010 attracted more migrants to the village.
The original inhabitants of the village, however, worry that the influx has led to dwindling sanitation and civic facilities. Residents say the village is home to at least 400 Gujjar families, but it has seen no major development in the last few years. “The population increased and new constructions came up within a limited space. The result is that the roads have narrowed and are dirty. Open nullahs and overhanging electric wires are other problems,” said Singh.
He added: “Amid rapid urbanisation and arrival of migrants, the rural charm of this village has not faded. We still live in joint families. Every evening, we go to chaupals and encourage the youth to come too. A visit to the Shiv temple, one of the oldest in the entire neighbourhood, is a must during religious occasions. During festivals, it looks like the entire village is out on the streets and celebrating. The community bonding is strong. And I know that it will continue in future.”
THE PAST AND THE PRESENT
* History enthusiast Sohail Hashmi says that there is no clarity on how the village got its name. “Earlier, settlements were usually named after a person, who built or set up a locality. There is a possibility that Madanpur Khadar would have been named after a person. And the word ‘Khadar’ was added as it was situated on the bank of Yamuna. Khadar means a low floodplain located alongside a river,” he said
* Home to 400 Gujjar families, Madanpur Khadar is surrounded by Sarita Vihar, Jasola Vihar, Aali village and Tehkhand village The village has a considerable lower middle-class population living in rented rooms and working in nearby areas like Okhla, Mohan Estate, Noida and Faridabad
* The Gujjars who were the landowners here and made a living as farmers now let out rooms