Delhiwale: Not so ‘regal’ after all | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

Delhiwale: Not so ‘regal’ after all

ByMayank Austen Soofi
Apr 30, 2022 02:51 AM IST

A little-known segment of Connaught Place.

The back lane of the Regal cinema building appears timeless. Long before the cinema shut down in 2017, the area’s architecture looked as shabby as it does today. The lane has always been composed of colourless buildings — mostly rear portions of edifices that look much better on the other side, the one facing the shopping lanes. Backstairs and air conditioned units have been covering the same back walls for years like inveterate skin boils. It felt as though the place will always stay the same.

Regal cinema hall in Connaught Place.
Regal cinema hall in Connaught Place.

And yet, our restless city doesn’t like stability. It builds and destroys and shifts from one place to another. It takes here to give elsewhere. It creates new places and forgets others. And now, the enduring setting of this forgotten back lane is undergoing its slow metamorphosis.

Take the lunch stall that used to be so crowded before the pandemic — it no longer exists. Further, the pink tiles of the men’s lavatory have lost their colour. A brown dog is walking past shuttered storefronts. The lane is empty. It is like being in a city that has been abandoned overnight by its citizens.

For long, despite its dishevelled setting, this lane has been home to a mix of businesses, including a numerologist. The numerologist’s office is locked. Many of the buildings seem uninhabited.

Their windows are blocked with bricks, in the same way the courtesan Anarkali was walled alive by emperor Akbar in Mughal-e-Azam. Around the corner used to be the India Coffee Centre, which served coffee from southern India to the President. No sign of it now.

Then there’s a building incompletely draped in protective green nets, indicating some construction activity. Since the structure has been standing here vacant, derelict for many years, one can imagine it is being replaced by something new. A person working in a nearby courier office nods to the assessment. When? He doesn’t know. He points to the tin barricades lining the pavement around the building, without labourers in sight.

Until recently, the windows of this building would be flapped open at all times, even though the building itself was deserted. Wild creepers would come out of them. But now all windows are shut. The green nets are blowing softly in the dusty slow-roasting breeze. There is no sign of any greenery. The tree standing beside the building has neither leaves, nor birds — perfectly encapsulating the spirit of the place.

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