I was categorically told that Hauz Khas Village was a huddle of pretensions and that I’d find girls in stilettoes playing hand-ball with words like trekking, art hikes, creative adventures, and revolutions. It was all there… and more.
The village isn’t really a village and yet, it is one. There are doorways with ‘kundis’ and motifs on walls, guccis and cheap hawais smile at each other, suppliers on cycles look up at the vespa hanging on a third floor balcony, and fine dining restaurants look benevolently at a white-washed single floor room where the village barber waits! This place is inundated with creative urges and as I stood in front of an abstract graffiti, I asked a passer-by, ‘You guys seem to love your graffiti here. Are these done to create the right ambience or are they because of restless surges?’
He gave me a long glance of incomprehension until I realised that here was an example of a failed literacy program of the Indian government completely camouflaged in deceptively fashionable denims and tees. I smiled and moved on.
Specky, my wife, was with me and she said, ‘This place is surrounded by history.’
‘Yes, indeed,’ I said, ‘The Hauz-i-Alai is on one side and the domes, gumtis and the gumbads silently watch the garishly coloured walls of the village houses on one side and the placid lake on the other.’
‘I wish they stop playing cricket in the monument garden there,’ said Specky as we walked in to see the pillared ruins that held the memories of a Madarsa. There were the slothful locals playing cards sitting on the very floor where once curious minds must have sat listening intently to a Maulvi telling them about the mysteries of life.
As we came out I observed a placard announcing a breakfast menu that was distinctly having a French orientation but was leaning against the wall that protected a Mughal heritage! I wondered if this was indeed the sort of cultural cocktail that sociologists dreamed of.
The lane outside in the village was partly cobbled and partly hobbled on unrepaired chunks of asphalt. The shops are clearly whispering culture and cleverly transforming even old cinema posters into an expensive ‘wish-I-could-hang-Gabbar-on-my-walls’ sort of subliminal longing. The restaurants and the eateries here let you taste cuisines of the world in a delicate environment that attempts to replicate a world that is certainly not Delhi… but then all this is so Delhi!
Yes, we did go down a narrow alley with designer boutiques waiting with dignified silence, to taste some delicious ‘peri peri rubbed smoked chicken with smoked pimento reduce served with a heap of saffron potatoes’ at the Smoke House Deli… a place where one can sit by the large window overlooking the lake reflecting its myriad hues of green algae-filled water, a partly submerged hand-thela and the air filled with whispers from the past!
Yes, the village is one place where the creative impulse beams in and out of one’s being, making him prone to sit down anywhere and begin a dream that converts even the ‘business of life’ into an irrepressible dimpled smile. This is indeed a place where you zip across from one time-zone to another and the adventure never stops. We realised here that the village makes it possible for people to even trek in stilettoes!
20 August 2013
Note: This post will be published in TCP (The Creative Project). Links to the online version will be given later. JPEGs of the print version will be shared here.