Saturday, April 23, 2005

jangpura as palimpsest

Where I live is this weird and wonderful c'lony in South Central Delhi known as Jangpura Extension.

The self admitted ' Greenest colony in Delhi.'
(do the denizens of jangpura take 'neigbour's envy, owner's pride' a tad too seriously?
perhaps they do.
there are , of course, also a lot of parks and trees.)

Was reminded of my love for the place by an acquaintance, a one time Jangpura resident, currently in Australia...

do you live in jungpura? isn't it absolutely romantic? isn't it precariously
balanced between the reality and the surreality that make the city? the
railway line, the cinema hall, the flyover, the tunnel, the booze shop
under nowhere.

i lived in jungpura and those go down as one of the most cherished moments.

I live in Jangpura and i cherish the moments too.
To say Jangpura is to say 'Space as palimpsest'.

How does it all begin?
Once upon a time there was a village called Bhogal.
Just off the Grand Mughal/British trunk road coming up from Mathura to Delhi, probabaly a centre for the grain and vegetable trade, and in other agricultural and household commodities.

Then the British started building 'New' Delhi.
To make way for the new they relocated the old.
The village of Raisina, near what was to become the Viceroys' Palace (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) was removed by a certain Colonel Young. The relocated village of YoungPura was hyphenated to Bhogal, geographically and otherwise. Even today bus conductors say 'Jangpura-Bhogal', because like with the Jamuna and the Jajmani system, the opposite of German happens in these parts, and what could be youth, or a psychologist's name, becomes a field of battle.
Young Pura. JungPura. Jang-Pura.

Then partition happened, and refugees from what was now Pakistan flooded into Delhi, and Jangpura grew an Extension. Farmland gets covered by planned colony. Planning with a strange relation to space. 200 square yard plots cut in half lengthwise, to give houses long and narrow like rail compartments.
And huge spreading parks. All over the place.
The children of refugees would have ample room to play.
Greenest C'lony.

Invasion and war in Afghanistan.
Terrorism and occupation in Kashmir.
Refugees came to Jangpura.
Where the long narrow refugee hoses were expanding vertically, like medieval Amsterdam town houses.
Now offices and art galleries in basements, and constant building and rebuilding.
And we live on the third floor, float over all these histories, and happy. Jangpura always has space for everyone.
The streetdogs lie atop cars. Marriages happen in the streets.
People bicker about parking spaces. But cars manage to squeeze in anyway.
The occasional public spat is a screaming raging violent performance, but everything is back to normal the next day.
'We're all one big family,' as they're fond of saying placatingly in Jangpura.
A particularly soap operatic family then, but what the hell….

To our north, you can see the dome of Humayun's Tomb. Before that, Nizamuddin - village, slum , and posh c'lony. Approached by a footbridge over an ancient stream, now sewer.
To our east, the bustling business of Bhogal Market. Where the vegetables are cheaper, and the newsshop sells papers in English, Hindi,Urdu, Bangla, Punjabi and Malayalam.
To our south, Lajpat nagar across the railway tracks. And the Lajpat Nagar railway station, empty at night except for strolling lovers.
To our west, Friendicoes under the cavernous flyover, where the forlorn friendless dogs of the city are brought to get care.

There is Om Hotel, and its famous Butter Chicken.
The booze shop next door, with sixty varieties of whiskey.
There is Eros, the cinema hall lying gaunt and empty, with cars rusting in its parking lot, soon to become a multiplex.
There is Novelty Store, which sells the best ham sandwiches in Delhi.

And rents are lower than anywhere surrounding.
Two friends, visibly moved, told us,
"This is the first place in Delhi where we've walked hand in hand and no one's stared at us."

To quote Kai Friese, longtime Jangpura resident, '..When it comes to the nation, I'm an imaginary Indian… Yet somehow the neighbourhood is a different matter. In my c'lony, I'm a native…'

And like all good natives, I am occasionally prone to wondering why anyone would want to live anywhere else...
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