Delhiwale: Where the stars descended
- An iconic city institution
A dome that’s like a Buddhist stupa. Pillars resembling those at ancient Hindu temples. Designs on the gateway inspired by Islamic monuments.
This red-and-white sandstone edifice is permeated with the essence of India’s histories. But the Nepalese ambassador’s palatial residence across the road is more easily visible from the road outside and attracts more attention.
It is Sapru House, however, that is the precious souvenir of our city’s post-independent past. Tucked away on Barakhamba Road in central Delhi, close to the Mandi House circle, you might have passed by it a hundred times without knowing that it has been graced by the presence of international notables such as Ho Chi Minh and Dag Hammarskjold (Google him!). Its library is stacked with thousands of old and new books, and unlike the libraries of members-only institutions such as the IIC, it has free access.
Inaugurated by the then prime minister Jawarharlal Nehru in 1950, Sapru House was dedicated to his passion - world affairs. After shuttling through five offices earlier, the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) founded its permanent home here. Named after Tej Bahadur Sapru, the ICWA’s first president, the landmark was built with public donations from maharajas, maharanis and a few corporate houses.
The ICWA was fashioned after London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs. Our own Chatham House. The forthcoming years met the expectations. Intellectuals such as Dr Zakir Hussain and S Radhakrishnan patronised it. Margaret Thatcher and Kurt Waldheim delivered speeches in its halls. Stephen Cohen and V I Potapov browsed reading matter at its famed library. Sapru House became the place to see and be seen. Only after staging a performance here was an artist said to have finally “arrived” - according to kathak dancer Shovana Narayan’s memoirs. She was talking of the Delhi of 1960s and 70s. Over the subsequent decades, the Capital’s highbrow society got distracted by other destinations to while away its evenings. The India Habitat Centre, for instance.
But Sapru House has continued to exist. These days, parts of the building are under renovation, as if the institution is eagerly getting ready to re-enter the city’s vital blood streams with renewed vigour. This sunny afternoon, the place is gleaming gracefully with its grand marble stairs, Ashoka trees, beautiful lawns, cobbled driveway and wide corridors illuminated with daylight. Once the pandemic becomes less threatening and it is again safe to mingle with the smart set, Delhi evenings might again include Sapru House as a necessary stop. Perhaps.
The Delhi Commission for Women conducted a surprise check of civic body-run schools in the national capital to look into safety and security measures in place for girl students in wake of recent reports of molestation. DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal, who led the team, called the condition of some of these schools “pathetic, unsafe and deeply disturbing”.
Pune: For over two months now, some of the big municipal corporations in the state, including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik, are under administrator's rule. Same goes with illegal encroachments and other civic inconveniences. In Pune, municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar, who is also serving as the administrator, has been pushing for expediting projects, some unpopular and seemingly difficult to be executed, if public representatives are in the game.
Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Monday directed the state civil aviation department to immediately tie up with the Centre for direct flights to countries such as the US and Canada from the international airport in Mohali. Also read: Rain brings respite from heat wave in Punjab, Haryana At present, only two international flights are operational from the airport to Dubai and Sharjah.
The Char Dham Yatra to Kedarnath was halted on Monday amid gusty winds, heavy rain and snowfall in Uttarakhand even as the pilgrimage to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Hemkund Sahib, and Badrinath continued as usual. “Hemkund Sahib experienced light snow on the day the portals of the shrine were opened but it has not affected the yatra,” said Hemkund Sahib Management Trust vice president NS Bindra. Over 10,000 pilgrims were waiting for the yatra to resume.
At least four persons drowned and two others were rescued after a boat capsized near Prabhu Ghat in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi on Monday. Police rushed to the spot and an NDRF team was also called to help in rescue efforts. According to officials, the six people were sailing on the Ganga river near the ghat when water started filling up through a hole in the boat. Soon after, the boat capsized.