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Delhiwale: Lost in the labyrinth of Palika Bhawan

Built in the 80s, Palika Bhawan in South Delhi has a certain faded grandeur about it.

delhi Updated: Jun 29, 2018 12:27 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhiwale,Palika Bhawan,RK Puram
Palika Bhawan is a sprawling complex in south Delhi’s RK Puram area. (Mayank Austen Soofi/HT Photo)

Delhi literally crawls with ambitious architecture that’s somehow been forgotten or simply shrugged over.

Case in point is Palika Bhawan — a sprawling complex tucked away in South Delhi. It is so monumental you can easily lose your way around it. Built in the 80s, the building has a certain faded grandeur about it that still clings to its wood-panelled walls.

Wandering around this complicated labyrinth of interconnected buildings, here at RK Puram, is both a delight and sometimes a bit irritating: hard to retrace your steps. But, then, the complex is so summer friendly, with shaded corridors always breezy no matter how still the outdoor air may be.

Although most shops seem to sell car parts, there are stalls that can astonish. One establishment advertises “government approved death certificates”, while another features Kashmiri-style rajma-rice, sold right there on a raggedy table.

The stroll through the various passageways is like sightseeing a small-town bazaar life. An idle tailor is watching WhatsApp videos on his mobile. A dog is snoozing on the middle of the corridor with people instinctively making their way around him. A man in old-fashioned safari suit is sleeping on a bench, his hand on his chest, which is heaving up and down. And down there a jamun seller in rustic dhoti-kurta sitting beside his wicker basket.

A visit to the foyer at M-Block reveals a conical, cobwebbed glass roof evocative of exhibition pavilions at Pragati Maidan that were demolished last year. Indeed, the complex reminds one of a kind of brutalist architecture that came up some decades ago in Delhi, in which the buildings tended to be huge but without much adornments, such as the long-demolished Chanakya Cinema.

A bit further along is a leather shop painted in Russian language signs. Owner Jagat Singh says any number of Russian tourists would visit Palika Bhawan years ago, “but they don’t come anymore.” He adds: “Like so many other shop owners here, I’m planning to move somewhere else.”

With that impending closure, Palika Bhawan will take one more step into Delhi’s past.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 12:25 IST

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