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Witnessing boom of the down market area

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2011 11:21 IST
Avishek G. Dastidar
Avishek G. Dastidar
Hindustan Times
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In 1937, the Guptas from Sitaram Bazar, Chandni Chowk, decided to buy a portion of the upcoming Connaught Place and rent out the property.

Their D-block residential quarter was taken by a British woman called Diana Roda, who ran her dance school, while some of their shops were taken by local traders. The Guptas thought CP was too down market a place to live compared to the Walled City. Around two decades later, they realised their mistake.

By then, post World War-II, Connaught Place had taken off as a booming market, while the residential quarters were prime real estate.

"So in 1958, we paid our tenant Mrs Roda a handsome sum of Rs 30,000 to vacate our own house," says octogenarian Raj Kanwar Gupta, recalling the heydays when living in CP meant living it up in Delhi.

"It was such a huge amount that she started crying looking at the notes. But we knew that it was nothing compared to what we were getting in return," Gupta says sitting in his huge 2500 sq feet flat adjacent to the Outer Circle.

But he was wrong. Rent Control Act, notified in 1942 turned out to be a raw deal for most CP landlords.

"The original rent for this place was Rs 56. It was okay then, but it never increased substantially. So now what we get out of this real estate is pittance," he says.

Gupta has raised four sons, and watched his four grandsons grow and has welcomed his great-grandson in this house.

"I like it that it is centrally located. And the fact that the rent is so low works to our advantage because the property tax we pay is also that low," he says. What about the noise and pollution and security?

"Most open verandahs, including ours, have been covered, cutting down the noise and pollution. And we have our own security," Gupta says.

But not all CP residents are as optimistic as Gupta.

B-Block resident Dolly Malhan (54) says, "There is no one to talk to. Every one is either a shop-owner or a shopper." The Malhans, who moved in around 1940, have also raised two generations here.

"Our children never had a childhood of playing with neighbourhood friends in the colony parks. It's sad," she said.

For these residents, grocery shopping means Paharganj, fruits and vegetables come from Bengali Market and the neighbourhood doctor means Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital two kilometres away.