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Metamorphosis of sleepy south Delhi

delhi Updated: Nov 22, 2011 23:32 IST
Rajat Arora
Rajat Arora
Hindustan Times
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The now posh and bustling south Delhi was a peaceful area in the 1970s. Even the Ring Road was snarl-free as the Maruti car was yet to hit the roads.

This was the time when GK-I and II, Safdarjung Enclave, Gulmohar Park, Vasant Vihar, Shanti Niketan and other residential colonies came up in south Delhi. "Initially, mostly people from the Walled City shifted to these new colonies. Safdarjung Enclave, which was earlier a pearl millet farm, was carved out in the late ’60s, but people only started living here, in the '70s," said retired Major UN Kohal, 89, a resident of Safdarjung Enclave (SE).

"It was quite far from Connaught Place and only one DTC bus — 17 B — would connect it with Lutyen's Delhi," Kohal added. "That was also the time when the now-famous Rajinder Ka Dhaba had started in SE outside the now defunct Kamal cinema. The owner started selling fish tikka outside the cinema hall," remembers Kohal.

For movies, residents of south Delhi regularly visited the Kamal cinema, Sudarshan in Gautam Nagar, Uphaar in Green Park and the famous Chanakya in Chanakyapuri.

GK-I and II, developed by reality major DLF, also came up during the beginning of the '70s. "The GK-I, M block market which is considered quite posh now, then had houses on the first and shops on the ground floor. The market, which now houses scores of coffee shops, pubs and restaurants, had Moti Mahal, Minar and Delhi Durbar as its famous eateries in the seventies," Chetan Sharma, a resident of GK-I.

Gulmohar Park, another posh south Delhi area, also came up during the same time on DDA land. The colony's claim to fame was its famous residents. such as Harivansh Rai and Teji Bachchan who used to live in their B Block Gulmohar Park house 'Sopan' till the '80s.

Even though Gulmohar Park was meant for journalists, Teji Bachchan got a membership of the Gulmohar Park Society as during those days there were not many takers. Old timers remember that the Bachchans hosted many poetry sessions, debates and discussions at Sopan till the late 1970s.

This was also the decade when DDA forayed into building flats. It constructed its first flats on Press Enclave Road, Saket. Many colonies were also created on the basis of the professions of people living there. For instance lawyers formed Niti Bagh and a group of income tax officers formed Panchsheel Park.