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Discover Delhi: Khan Market’s youngest resident on life in the bylanes

At 21, Abhinav Bahmi is the youngest resident of south Delhi’s Khan Market. His parents, Mamta Marwah and Anup Kumar, run the landmark bookstore Faqir Chand and Sons on the Front Lane.

delhi Updated: Mar 23, 2017 18:04 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Khan Market,Faqir Chand Bookstore,Mayank Austen Soofi
Abhinav Bamhi with his mother, Mamta Marwah (L), and grandmother Uma Marwah in 2010 at Faqir Chand & Sons bookstore in south Delhi’s Khan Market.(Mayank Austen Soofi)

He must be Delhi’s luckiest man. Abhinav Bamhi has his breakfast, lunch and dinner every day in upscale Khan Market.

While we go to this High Street to ogle at the capital’s rich and famous, Bamhi has been living here all his life. At 21, he holds the special distinction as Khan Market’s youngest resident.

Named after freedom fighter Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s elder brother Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan, the market was established in 1951 to rehabilitate Partition refugees. There were 154 shops and 74 residential flats.

The shops were assigned space on the ground floor with flats above. Over the decades, the locality’s original character of a sleepy market-cum-neighbourhood disappeared with its increasing gentrification - most dwellers sold away their houses or put them up on high rent for commercial use.

Yesterday’s bedrooms and drawing rooms have become today’s restaurants where we go for special treats such as Rock Shrimp Tempura and Blueberry Cheese Cake.

Now, Khan Market is left with only 10 households. Abhinav’s family lives in flat 59 on the Middle Lane, next to Town Hall. His parents, Mamta Marwah and Anup Kumar, run the landmark bookstore Faqir Chand and Sons on the Front Lane.

An undergraduate student, Abhinav, too has started sitting in the shop. His naani (maternal grandmother), Uma — daughter of the shop’s founder — also used to sit in the family shop until two years ago but now remains in the flat due to her “leg problem”.

Abhinav has an older brother Abhishek, a law student, who is outdoorsy and lives in the family’s farmhouse in Gurgaon.

The Faqir Chand home is as deliciously haphazard as their bookshop (Abhinav’s parents laugh when shoppers, probably ironically, congratulate them for the “orderly arrangement of books”).

The covered verandah is taken over by a dining table, a giant refrigerator, and a TV, which doesn’t work.

Washed laundry hangs down from the roof. Notable eye-catchers in the verandah include Lord Krishna’s statue, sliced loaf of the very middle-class Harvest Gold bread and a bottle of Kissan Mixed Fruit jam. (This just doesn’t feel like that Khan Market where shoppers come to get baguette and Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves.)

A little shrine to Sai Baba is built on one of the verandah walls. Abhinav’s naani spends a large part of her day in this room reading Lord Ram’s Amritvani.

Her bedroom is full of character — sacks of old clothes lie next to her bed. Abhinav sleeps in this same room in a couch beside the family’s second TV (this one works).

The drawing room is extraordinarily cramped and small. The family barely spends time here though Abhinav sometimes stands beside the window to gaze out reflectively at the (free) Khan market parking outside.

A rare portrait of the legendary Faqir Chand, who founded the bookstore as Oriental Book Shop in Peshawar Cantonment hangs in a smaller room.

The roof is stunning – the view is flanked by black water tanks and gigantic AC ducts emanating out from the market’s showrooms and restaurants. You might mistake the scene for one of those hyper-creative art biennale installations.

On entering the kitchen, we, at last, feel the flavour of Khan Market – the window faces Café Turtle.

First Published: Mar 23, 2017 13:01 IST