Saturday, June 09, 2007

Living - Loving and Leaving Sujan Singh Park

Musings of a woman born and brought up in Delhi's most elegant address.



[By Meenakshi Chauhan; pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Almost everyone I know has lived in different houses but I had only one home since the day I was born...Sujan Singh Park.

Ever since the Delhi Walla Mayank Austen Soofi asked me to write on what it is like to live in this "elegant address" I have thought a lot about it. Each time it turns out to be a story of my life which is categorically not what he wants! Sorry Soofi, if I want to pen down my thoughts about this Delhi landmark, it will have to be about my life and there is no getting around it.

Talking History

Most people do not know it exists. Some who are unaware ask where this 'park' in Delhi is located. God forbid, if you come across anyone familiar with the place. Her reaction inevitably would be 'You live in upmarket Sujan Singh Park!', or better still, "Oh, isn't that where the great Khushwant Singh lives!"

Sujan Singh Park, with its red brick exteriors, high ceilings and thick walled flats is one of the rare little havens left in this city. Founded by Sir Sobha Singh, the legendary builder and real estate owner of New Delhi, he named it after his father. Owned in bits and pieces by his various grand children, residents like me, who are not related to the family, live as tenants under a trust. But please look elsewhere if you are interested in a detailed history of the place. What fascinates me is my life here.

My Nest

We fondly call it SSP. I live in G block, the only block which stands a little apart from the main complex. The rest of the colony, if you can call it that, has buildings in a clear O with the Ambassador hotel forming part of it. However as a child I wanted to live in Greater Kailash or Defence Colony or any other place where there were other kids around. The only child of my age in my block was a boy! A very shy boy at that!

Some Grumbling

Everyone loves their own house but it's a rarity that everyone will love your house. I never understood why I was the envy of my friends. You see there are several oddities in my flat - I have a living room with a fire place, but what use is that when Delhi never gets that cold? What use is a big garden with a badminton net strung across the trees when the dogs keep chasing the 'jungli' cats in the middle of the 'court'? What use is a bedroom-sized bathroom when your drains regularly overflow, cockroaches constantly appear and the Royal Doutton pot from the 1950's needs a plumber equally old to fix!

Yet, all these places have their charms. The garden with the lovely Ashoka trees planted by my father is ideal for day dreaming. In winters, it is the perfect place to soak up the sun while nights are made lovelier by big bonfires. The fireplace is ideal to hang Christmas cards. The bathroom is so spacious that you need not worry of it getting wet and slippery all over.

Mapping the House

I have lived different lives in each and every corner of this house. In the hallway - hurried pecks to the boyfriend as he would drop me home late in the night. In the study - it used to become our playground on summer afternoons. I would play teacher-teacher or office-office with my sister. (We always fought, she invariably won) Once my sister started going out for dates, her room, known as the Little Room, was where I would dream of boys and have private chats on the phone while Richard Marx would sing in the background.

No description of my house could be complete without mentioning the huge window cooler in our dining room. A cooler bigger than any I have seen in any home. A cooler I dreamt of on my long journeys home from Miranda House when it was 46 degrees and I knew my house would be a good 10 degrees cooler.

Our living room too deserves its glory. It can fill in about 15 people and still not look crowded. Its ceiling is so high we use a ladder if the curtains need to be taken down. Then there is my armchair - the best place in the world for me to read and for my dogs to sleep. Of course, there is no way of ever forgetting my mother's room where many tears have been shed by all of us.

Here is My Room

It surprises me when someone sees it for the first time and exclaims - wow your room is so huge.

For the first 18 years of my life it was my Daadi's room where I'd watch Chitrahaar on the only television in the house. Else I would play Rummy with Daadi or help her with knitting.

After she died in 1998, I was given the room on the condition I would have to move out if we have guests. Fair enough, but we always had guests! However, I gradually made it my own by first pasting posters of Bon Jovi, then hanging orange and pink curtains, and finally decorating the wall with pictures of all the people I loved and who I hope loved me.

Things changed in 2006 when I spent many months out of Delhi. Only during the travels did I come to value the uniqueness of my SSP home.

Drastic changes are expected this year. I'm getting married. Me and Aditya will live at Sector 41 in Noida. As the day draws nearer I think of my life here, of some dreams fulfilled and some shattered, of sorrows and laughter. When people ask what my biggest fear or apprehension is regarding my marriage I could think of only one - of leaving my haven...leaving my home...leaving Sujan Singh Park...forever.

A Rare Haven - Red Bricks Exterior and other Charms




Apartment No. 49 E - Khushwant Singh's Apartment!




Khushwant Singh's Library Window?




Garden for Day Dreaming




Upmarket Sujan Singh Park!




G Block Boundary - Peeing Not Permitted




Keep Away Please




Ambassador Hotel's Staff Entrance faces the G Block




How Green is the Park




G Block is Secured




Sujan Singh Park - Another View




Sujan Singh Park - From Subramaniam Bharti Road




Good Morning




Bus!


18 comments:

minx said...

nice pics mayank

constant traveller said...

When I started reading this article I thought to myself that I really cant relate to it as I have moved so much in life…But as I read along I realised that one doesn’t have to experience something to be able to relate to it…this is the magic of words, which you have truly captured here in your article. By the end I found myself in tears like I had to leave this lovely house and move out!!! Do I need to say more!

M said...

lovely article. personal and interesting. :) the pics do make you say "wow, you live here!"

Minx said...

thanks constant traveller... comments like these make putting my inner most feelings in the public eye...worthwhile!!!

Tania said...

Hey Minky,

Great article.It took me right back to the 'dilli' days and left me feeling many emotions all at once... joy, nostalgia, Love, melancholy ... I could almost smell the dilli air. I guess i will be back only for your wedding now.

PS-mostly i was reminded of getting ready for tina's wedding.I DID NOT say cut the border!!

Love
t.

Henirietta said...

I visited Delhi few years back. The article and the pictures are so evocative. Sitting here in Geneva I can once again feel the heat and longing of your lovely city. It is rightly said that to understand a place you do not need maps or history but just some personal tales of its people. Thanks so much.

Renu/Pradeep said...

Dear meenakshi,
SujanSingh Park is indeed a magical place....I know it from my experience.
Hello, Indeed it did bring me, back my old memories too. I have lived there long time ago with friends. I too love that place and indeed have great experiences. I can understand how u have felt.
In fact i am looking for those friends & their contact numbers if any. His name is Vijay Sanghvi(journalist) & lives in 10A, Sujansingh Park.
Am visiting Delhi on the 14th of June, can u please let me know if you know of any such person living there.
I am Renu & will be coming from Tanzania....it will be great if I can see them. I will be leaving on the 13th, so if you an email me on this email add: sitaram@cybernet.co.tz...........I will be sooooo grateful. Thanks & bye for now.....Renu/Pradeep

minx said...

sorry renu ..dont know this person

Supriya Anand said...

i hope this doesn't sound sugar-coated, because that's not my intention..ahem...seriuosly, Minx i thought i was reading about a fairytale...ironically based in reality..your article had all the'real' elements of life...joy, tears, happy moments, sorrows..set in a warm, cosy very old-english, fairytale-like house.i think that makes a beautiful blend. i sympathise with you, for having to leave sujan singh park...but noida is a nice place too! goodluck!

Supriya Anand said...

i hope this doesn't sound sugar-coated, because that's not my intention..ahem...seriously, Minx i thought i was reading about a fairytale...ironically based in reality..your article had all the'real' elements of life...joy, tears, happy moments, sorrows..set in a warm, cosy very old-english, fairytale-like house...i think, that makes a beautiful blend. i sympathise with you, for having to leave sujan singh park...but noida is a nice place too! goodluck!

meghna said...

Hey minx superb article. Really enjoyed reading it and now I have to see the house. The pics are amazing and the house looks great. So wish I had come over. I really felt that while reading the article where you have brought everything out so well. The emotions and the love for the house.

Anonymous said...

what IS all the fuss about? it's just another crumbling old delhi colony. sort of like middle circle connaught place, albeit with a green cover. the residents, by the way, do not seem to know that triple parked cars may cause obstruction, let alone offence.

minx said...

Hey anonymous... the fuss is about a life loved and lived...and like you said its a crimbling old colony which i have not hidden at all !!! but its loving the place that matters... dont know which part of delhi u live in but it is a home to be valued! And considering its off the road what triple parking are you talking about???? The shaadi's in ambassador hotel cause me many a frown too but thats not part OF SSP!!

Cosmo said...

I have spent the happiest time of my life in Sujan Singh Park, I have loved living in delhi and meeting so many fascinating people and the house was a perfect place. English visitors reactions were that of familiarity. We made the drawing room pale yellow and enjoyed the airy proportions, It reminded me slightly of living in a grand and slightly faded ocean liner. It is a bewitching place and full of characters.

Me... said...

Hi

This article was introduced to me by one of my friend. Even though I stayed at Sujan Singh for a year, it is enough for me to rememeber the memories of that place forever. My father being in the Army was posted in Sikkim at that time and the huge house on the second floor opposite the back side of Ambassador was shared by my mother, myself and my little dog, who is now going to be 3 years old.

When we first shifted in, we took much time to figure out as to how we should fit in our furnitre - big enough to occupy our medium sized army houses. Most of the space left was a playground to me and my dog where we played hide and seek.

Sujan Singh is an address - which one knows when one visits - Seeing is believing. Often I had to tell the cab driver or the autowallas that I have to go behind Khan Market, few knew Sujan Singh. It was a revelation I think for many of those drivers, who came and waited and stared at the building while they waited for their change. :)

Sujan Singh Park Rocks. I wish I could own one of those houses.

Cosmo said...

I lived here and it was magical..It is like being on a Merchant Ivory set and very civilised. I miss it constantly.

arushirocks said...

Sujan Singh Park! Oh.
I live here, and I'd rather die, than leave this place. :D
This place totally rocks! So glad my ancestors bought this place at their times...
What you wrote in this article couldn't be more true. :)

Vipul said...

Living in Sujan Singh Park sure is bliss..I grew up waving to Khushwant Uncle's cook everyday on my way to school,then college and now ,work..He never seems to age,holding onto his faithful mystic smile as always :)

These small intricate things are what cherish us the most..We always look for happiness in all the major aspects of our lives...we forget that the real happiness lies in finding joy in the smallest of things..Cheers :)