Monday, July 20, 2009

Photo Essay – Once Delhi, Now Delhi

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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Once Delhi, Now Delhi

The city down the decades.

[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The Delhi Walla discovered these grainy images in the archives of LIFE magazine. Nothing is known about the years when these pictures were taken. But the life seen in these frames are proof enough that much has changed in this city down the decades.

Once when the 2 Up Kalka Mail would steam into Delhi through the old Yamuna bridge, your grandfather would turn right and see the grand Metcalfe House. Now, when the electricity-powered superfast Kalka Shatabdi Express zooms into the Capital, you won’t be able to see that building, thanks to the concrete that has sprung up on its compound.

Once Kashmire Gate was home to the workshop of the legendary tailor Mr Mohammed Umar who stitched sherwanis for eminent Delhiwallas like Mr Jawaharlal Nehru. The Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT), Kashmere Gate's most defining landmark, had yet to come up. Now, the place boast of the first McDonald’s that opened within the premises of the Delhi Metro.

Once there was a tram service in Delhi. It had started in 1903, the year electricity arrived in the city. 18 years later, Delhi had 24 tramcars and 15 km of track. From Jama Masjid, the trams would putter along Esplanade Road, down Chandni Chowk, towards Fatehpuri Masjid, and from there to Sadar Bazaar. Another line would sneak out from Jama Masjid and snake through Chawri Bazaar, Hauz Kazi, Lal Kuan, before turning to Fatephpuri. Now, there are no trams.

Once Delhi’s tree-lined diplomatic avenues had Hindustan Fourteen, Landmaster and Hillman running on them. They gave way to Standard Heralds, Fiats, Ambassadors, and then to Marutis. Now, Toyotas, Landcruisers, BMWs and Indiacs rule the roads.

Once DTC was called DTU (Delhi Transport Under-taking). No bus was allowed to carry more than its capacity of seated people and - at the most, 12 standing passengers. The legend is that author Mr Nirad C. Chaudhuri walked from his office at All India Radio (AIR) to his home in Mori Gate rather than wait for a bus that would take no new passengers since it was already ‘full’. Now, DTC buses are as crowded as chicken coops with people hanging out from the doors.

Once Khan Market just had Bahrisons and Faqir Chand for booklovers, the ‘dairy stores’ for daily essentials, Carryhom ice-cream parlour for children, and Alfina restaurant for serious diners. Now, there are twice the bookstores, two Big Chills, two Chonas, several more cafés, several designer boutiques, and a free parking service with insufficient parking space.

Once Nizamuddin railway station had just two trains stopping by for exactly four minutes. Now, it is a noisy junction with trains shuttling all day long.

Once Chawri Bazaar was famous as an iron market. Now it is the destination to buy wedding cards and bathroom fittings.

Once the city had eight-seater phatphatiyas for commute. Now, it has three-seater CNG autos.

Once (July, 1959) Mr Che Guevara came to Delhi for two days and stayed in the Ashoka Hotel. Now (July, 2009), Ms Hillary Clinton come visiting for four days and stays in the Taj Palace Hotel.

Once, during the early 40s, the Indian Coffee House used to be on Janpath where it served doughnuts and coffee to American GIs. In the 60s, it moved to where the Palika Parking is today and started serving idli-dosa to the city’s ‘intellectuals’. Now, it is in Mohan Singh Place, frequented by old fuddy-duddies, and in danger of being shut down.

Yes darling, this is Delhi.

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi

Once upon a time in Delhi...

Once Delhi, Now Delhi


heena said...

My Daddy (nana) used to tell me about his college days, about how he'd travel by tram all the way to Dilli College, passing through 'mithai ka pull', sadar bazaar, lal kuan etc. And my Ammi (nani) once told me about the incident when she went to watch 'dhool ka phool' with her friends and was caught by her brother in the tram.
I had always imagined those scenes since I was a kid, but you DILLI WALA, have brought them right before my eyes. It has revved me up.
'Thanks' seem to be an insignificant word right now in return of what you've given me.
God bless.

ramesh_lalwani said...

Thanks for sharing these beautiful photographs of Delhi.

Anonymous said...

Awesome stuff mate!

urbanGYPSY... said...

amazinggg!!! pics exuding every li'l sense of life... it's a pleasure seeing these again n agin...m like awestruck!!!
gr8 job mayank!!!

hope ur doin fyn nw! :)

Anonymous said...

Some of the small towns in the country still look like these photos, if you click them in b & w!

Aanchal said...

all i can say is......OH Y GODDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!

Putra Bertam said...

Many thanks to you Mayan, I really love classic Pic. The tram that you had posted on your blog had a similar with what we had in Penang, one of the British Colonial state. At that time Penang was ruled by India East Company. Today the tram had gone and only the rail was here to preserve as history purposes. Thank again Mayan.

Ravi Sagar said...

First of all thanks for posting this blog. I love Delhi a lot and these pictures tell how our Grand Parents lived their life here.

Please post more pictures along with the title. Also if you can post old vs new pictures then it would be great :p


Rajiv said...

fantastiic miyaan
superb,mind blowingggg,
Jai ho soofiiii

Once....mayank was bebaaak

Now....He is sumhow a lttl diplomatic:P:P
Ravi is right...old verses new...

Amitabh Varma said...

Ah! Those were the times!

Once Delhi had police men wearing khaki half-pants and red turbans.

Once Delhi had tongas to ferry you from the railway station to home. Those sitting in front looked at the sky, those at the rear were in danger of slipping down.

Once Delhi had a switch man on a bicycle to switch on and switch off lamps on the lamp posts. The switch man came with a rod, at the end of which a hook was mounted.

Once Delhi had shops outside which bayleaf used to be kept in sacks. The customer could pick up the bay leaves free as per his requirement.

Once milk was supplied in glass bottles in Delhi. The quality of milk was identified with the colou of the cap on the bottle!

Mainak said...

God knows how you unearthed such wonderful pictures.

Just goes to show how much Delhi has changed in the last 50 years or so. I guess, that is what is characteristic of Delhi - change.

First, the tram, then the circular rails and now we have the metro.

Delhi is surely a very dynamic city.

Sachin Khosla said...

Awesomeness !! Really liked it

S said...

Brilliant, evocative images!Mayank, where did you find this archive of the LIFE magazine?? As someone deeply fascinated with and writing on the histories of photography in India, I'd love to know where this little known treasure trove of photographs can be found.

axea said...

These photos are part of the LIFE magazine photo archives which Google has scanned and hosted.
You may see them here:

Mayank, thank you for posting these.

Yogesh Naik said...

Marvellous !!

Richa Jain said...

Incredible Dilli!!!!!
loved the classic pics portraying true delhi...

preeti said...

It is really nice..I love delhi..

Anonymous said...

A post that's permeated with love for the city! Great writing and lovely photos.