Shahpur Jat has become the ‘go to’ place for Delhiites hunting for good food or for those interested in shopping niche products or experiences
Situated in the heart of South Delhi, Shahpur Jat is an urban village where Delhiites can get everything from the Bihari dish ‘litti chokha’ to exquisitely decorated cupcakes to custom-made shoes and wedding gowns.
Over the years, the village has been transformed into a commercial centre, with new high-end boutiques right next to cramped and dingy shops that haven’t changed for decades. The area caters to those looking for niche products and experiences, like a yoga studio that offers classes accompanied by live sitar recitals. The village also has two studios where local bands practice and record.
One of the more popular restaurants in the area, the Potbelly Rooftop Café, serves Bihari food. With dishes like Aloo McLalu Chop, a sattu-flavoured drink and Litti Chokha, of course, the colourful café stands out.
“When we started around three years ago, Shahpur Jat wasn’t a hub like it is now. We were four storeys up, so we thought why would anyone climb all the way? That’s why we came up with Bihari food,” explains the café’s owner Puja Sahu.
Ms. Sahu says the menu is largely made up of traditional dishes that she ate while growing up in Muzzaffarpur, but it also includes experimental items like the Bihari Burger, which comes with Phataka Fries and Dehati Fish ’n Chips.
While enjoying his lunch at the café, German photographer Enrico says: “I come here very often because I love the food and I live near Shahpur Jat. Litti Chokha is my favourite as I had it when I was working in Bihar.”
For Delhiites, who don’t have a taste for Bihari food, there are other cafes in Shahpur Jat that offer a quick bite. The Coffee Garage serves up no-fuss sandwiches, rolls and drinks to busy shoppers. Students from nearby Kamala Nehru and Gargi College as well as NIFT can be seen whiling away their time between classes over cold coffees.
Next to the Coffee Garage is the Shoe Garage, which offers custom-made shoes. “The shoes here are very comfortable and I have a small shoe size, which I get here,” says Namrita, as she tries on a pair of silver-coloured sandals.
For those doing their wedding shopping, Shahpur Jat has boutiques that have designer lehengas, saris and gowns. “These days, girls usually want Western-style gowns instead of lehengas. Our range starts from Rs.32,000 and goes up to Rs.2.5 lakh,” says a shop attendant at Inchee Tape, a designer boutique run by Purvi Sahu and Sharad Sharma.
While the ritzy showrooms and cafes are doing brisk business, not everyone in the village is happy about the exposure the area has got in recent years.
“My family has lived here for 650 years. We were farmers before our land got acquired. Though it is good that the area has developed so much, it is not good for our children,” says Bhim Singh Lambardar, who has spent all his 82 years in Shahpur Jat. Dressed in a crisp white kurta and dhoti, he adds: “Girls come here dressed in short skirts and dresses. They shouldn’t be dressed like that as it is spoiling our children.”
But instead of leading to trouble, this clash of cultures has made Shahpur Jat a more lively and vibrant place, where the urban and rural coexist side-by-side.