Its curved passage is empty. The stone floor uneven. The wall disfigured. The plaster is chipping off. This short passage connects the Outer Circle corridor to the Middle Lane of M-block in Connaught Place (CP), Delhi’s colonial-era shopping district, that is being given a major facelift in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.
Most showrooms and restaurants in CP line its Inner Circle. Since the opening of the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station at Central Park in 2006, newer cafes, fast food outlets and an increase in footfall has brightened the otherwise dull Outer Circle too. It’s the Middle Circle that remains drab. Drabber still is the Middle Lane that links the Outer Circle to the Middle. The stylish crowd is rarely spotted here, despite its proximity to watering holes such as Q’ba, @live and Blues.
No change yet
“I’m running this shop here since 1978,” says Anup Kumar of Rameshwar Das, a stationary store that is one of the only two shops in the passageway. “While Inner Circle has undergone a makeover and Outer Circle is being renovated, the Middle Lane hasn’t changed at all.” Outside, the wall’s whitewashed layer has peeled off exposing large patches of blue. Office goers, salesmen, young couples and shoppers walking in the Outer Circle corridor rarely throw a peek into this gallery. Its other end opens into the Middle Lane. On the right are five auto spare parts shops. Upstairs is something rarer — private residences.
Sanjeev Gupta has been living in his second floor apartment for 47 years. His terrace has a lovely view of the Outer Circle Road and of high-rises such as Statesman Tower and Gopaldas Building. “Outer and Inner Circles are being redone. The Middle Circle may be the next,” Gupta says, hopefully.
In the future
However, Anand Tiwari of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), the agency renovating the area, says, “Our focus are Inner and Outer Circles. In the Middle Lane, we are setting up tunnels with service ducting for electric wires and cables, water and sewage.” So, while CP’s Georgian architecture is again looking new, its Middle Circle will remain as it always has.
Not everyone minds this status quo. Painter Karim Khan, who feels “the presence of a sea beach whenever he is in Connaught Place”, says, “I will always prefer the Middle Lane over the Inner and Outer circles. For me, a beautiful woman who is dead is nothing compared to an ugly woman who is alive.”