On a cold winter evening in December 1919, the PL Vaidya household at Naya Bazar, just outside the walled city, north of the Lahori Gate, was abuzz with activity. Around 20-25 Marathi families from the area had gathered to form the ‘Maharashtriya Sneh Samvardhak Samaj’.
As the new Capital was being built—in 1911, a few years ago, the Capital of British India had been shifted from Calcutta to New Delhi—people from across India came here for jobs. Educated Marathi families came here from what was then the Bombay Presidency.
After railway finances separated from general finances in 1925, around 150 Marathi families—employees of Great Indian Peninsular Railways (now the Central Railways) and Bombay Baroda and Central India Railways (now the Western Railways)—came to Delhi. They too rented places at Naya Bazar, mostly near the erstwhile Novelty cinema. “My father Balwant Wasudev Paranjape was transferred here in 1927,” says Madhukar Paranjape, 81.
Initially, they faced language problems. “But slowly, the community picked up the language and adjusted to the extreme Delhi weather,” says Paranjape, who after initial education at the school run by Samaj, studied at Ramjas High School and then at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA).
In 1937, the Dilli Maharashtriya Samaj Building Trust collected donations for a new building—Brihan Maharashtra Bhavan opposite Paharganj police station. Then in 1952, Maharashtriya Shikshan Sanstha was formed to run Nutan Marathi Shala at Aaram Bagh nearby.
Around the same time, scores of Marathis joined administration and made Karol Bagh their home. They formed the Maratha Mitra Mandal in early 1950s. “My husband Shrikrishna Sathe cleared UPSC and joined the railway ministry. Like him, most of his friends living in Karol Bagh joined different ministries,” says Neela Sathe, who came here after marriage.
With increasing population, a kindergarten was set up, which is now the Chougule High School. People came together to celebrate Club Day at two places, at the Maratha Mitra Mandal for the entire family and the ladies-only Rani Lakshmibai Samaj.
Dattatreya Mahadev Joshi set up Bombay Stores at Karol Bagh in the early 1950s. It was taken care of by his two sons. “They kept all the typical items for a Marathi house. Be it Maharashtrian goda masala, Diwali goodies or Ganapati idols for Ganesh festival,” says Leena Shahane, 63, Joshi’s daughter. The brothers home-delivered Marathi newspapers and ‘Diwali Ank’, the Diwali special editions of newspapers and magazines. The Joshis ran the shop till 1992.
Things began changing at a fast pace after the 1970s with increased amalgamation of the community with Delhi. Observes Prasanna Sathe, son of Shrikrishna Sathe, “My son and my brother’s children are third generation Delhi Marathis. We feel ours is a good mix of Marathi and Dilli culture.”
It is evident from the fact that for many families, along with the puran poli and shrikhand (Maharashtrian sweet dishes), rajma chawal and chhole bhature are a regular fare. Adds Joshi’s grandson Shyamkant, “We speak Marathi at home and are equally at ease with Hindi. We eat food prepared in typical Maharashtrian way. But otherwise we are pucca Delhiites.”