Not many people, including those who live there, are aware of the actual name of this small, yet densely populated, urbanised village now known as Patparganj.
Gharonda Neem Ka Banger, Patparganj village, was originally a small hamlet with houses of thatched roofs with phoons (slender grass growing abundantly in the Yamuna) within the char-diwari.A stone wall, about 5-6 feet high and 1.5m at the base, ran along the village perimeter, approximately 500m in each direction. The northern and southern sides had gates while the other two had huge windows.
Says Jagat Swarup Upadhyay, 79, whose family has been living there for at least 150 years: “It is also known as Sahibaganj. But it was actually after the Mutiny of 1857 that the area came to be known as Patparganj.”
This once famous grain market was also the Ground Zero for the Battle of Patparganj in 1803 that changed Delhi’s history.
Upadhyay says it was after the 1940s that the wall started disappearing slowly under the heaps of soil that villagers put on to save the area from Yamuna floods. But the real makeover from a sleepy village to a bustling colony started from the 1960s when people built brick and cement houses.
Lamenting the fact that there are no photos from the old times, Upadhyay wryly makes a subtle comment on today’s reality: “Those days, there were no photos, but people’s words were taken as truth. Now, there are photos galore but you can manipulate those and still prove someone wrong.”