Under my byline

Capital view

Posted in Architecture/Design, Living by Rrishi on 25 April 2009

Even in flat, dusty, noisy and low-rise Delhi, there are homes from which you can, unexpectedly, get a bit of the “big picture”

Tank, temple and Ridge (c) V Anand Sankar 2009

“They have nibbled,” says J P S Uberoi, “but their nibbles are not that bad.” He means the public sector organisations which control, and nibble at, the slice of the forested Northern Ridge that he overlooks. The building in which the Uberois live meets the requirements, he says, of traditional Indian ideas of geography: it is on high ground, built on “the only bedrock between Pakistan and the Chittagong Hills”, and has a (covered) water tank next to a temple — right below his balcony. “The monkeys are a pest for me,” he says, “but not for the people who come to the temple.” Back in the 1970s, he remembers, on the Ridge his children saw jackals and “the dormitory of the last wild pig”.

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India Gate and government flats (c) V Anand Sankar 2009J N Stadium and India Gate (c) V Anand Sankar 2009.

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From the bedroom window (c) V Anand Sankar 2009For two hours each night, the spotlit India Gate glows like a jewel in the windows of Arun and Neeru Kapoor’s flat. They live at the top of an apartment tower north of Rajpath, in one of the very few flats which look down onto the Central Vista. There’s nothing before them but the leafy plain of New Delhi, interrupted by the occasional tall building. On clear days they can see the Qutb Minar. Tonight India Gate faces a mild challenge from Nehru stadium, white-lit for some occasion, and the distant sparkle of a fireworks display. “I enjoy the view the most,” says Mr Kapoor, who works from home. “In the daytime it is the best — lots of greenery, birds, parakeets. I have my morning tea in front of the window.”

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Kishangarh, with Qutb Minar poking up to left (c) V Anand Sankar 2009Planes lining up (c) V Anand Sankar 2009

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Ronald Laloo looks over a jumble of rooftops in Kishangarh near Vasant Kunj in south Delhi. There’s always something happening on the roofs and balconies and in the windows of the hundreds of houses and apartments — a forest of kites on strings, children playing, adults working or chatting. To the left is the Qutb Minar, to the right the big Chhattarpur temples and an enormous triangle of grassy parkland. In the sky, planes queue up to land at the airport. It’s not a beautiful view, but a lively and endlessly entertaining one. “I’m not the kind to sit and stare into space,” says Laloo, “but when I stand here I stand for a while.”

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Anil Gautam with his son Rajnish on their terrace (c) V Anand Sankar 2009Overlooking the sari wholesalers' lane (c) V Anand Sankar 2009

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“Today’s the mayor election,” says Anil Gautam, “That’s why the road is clear.” We’re standing on his rooftop just behind the Town Hall, off Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi. The Gautams are long-term residents, the pardada having purchased this house in 1905. They’re unusually lucky in Old Delhi to be facing a broad street across which is a large park. Gautam points to certain full-grown trees and tells us which trees used to stand in their place. Yet crowd and commerce are never far: to the left is a long, narrow gali for sari and suiting wholesalers, and on the terrace behind stacks of shiny sari boxes are glittering in the sun.

(Photos all courtesy V Anand Sankar)

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2 Responses

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  1. Thinking Cramps said, on 26 April 2009 at 3:00 pm

    My house was in the heart of Hauz Khas, on the 1st floor, and yet the view from the balcony was a slice of life. People, low-rise homes, a cassia tree in yellow bloom, and the curve of a medieval monument’s dome some 200 meters away, all from the vantage point of a balcony under a tree that unleashed ants, sap, and pleasant shade over us.

  2. Rrishi said, on 27 April 2009 at 1:22 am

    That’s a great view. Sure, trees and monuments look good from the windows, but the kaleidoscopic fun of a slice of life view can be thrilling. Someone I knew lived in Katwaria Sarai in two little rooms on the first floor, overlooking a narrow lane — great fun to watch the passing back and forth. At one point my host leaned over and yelled down for tea and pakoras or some such thing, and they were delivered immediately!


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