A look at the urban villages of Delhi

Delhi, say the critics, is divorced from Bharat. The Capital that claims to know the pulse of India, knows not the heartbeat of Bharat. Humbug. In Delhi, the modern and the medieval, the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural blend unlike most cities across the world. The city with marvels of medieval architecture and the latest malls and multiplexes lives comfortably with its oddities, keeping a little space for all.

While it may not be unusual to see a gleaming multiplex having an unauthorised colony for company, it is both common and heart-warming to see villages in the heart of the city. For proof, drive down to Khirkee Extension. Don’t bother about the antics of Somnath Bharti. Instead, keep an eye on the gleaming shops, the art galleries, the state-of-the-art photography studios. Now just roll your eyes and see a herd of cattle right next door. Or a mannequin of a woman in a mini-skirt being admired by women in a ghunghat.

Of course, you could choose not to go to Khirkee with its labyrinthine lanes. Hop across to Shahpur Jat or even Hauz Khas, the part of the city made famous by Alauddin Khalji in early 14th Century. Here the past sits in perfect repose with the present. Age-old madrasas, hauz and havelis with their chhatris and chajjas in perfect communion with gleaming malls and emporiums. At fashion boutiques, the who’s who of Indian society are clicked by the media, and seen by men in a traditional dhoti, women with their heads draped and their goats tethered. Not too far from a design studio, you can find men smoking their hookah, others milking their cows. Still others just gaping at the world that is theirs, yet it is not.

A question of two worlds in one city. Delhi is home to Bharat and India.