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Built To Impress

New Delhi’s buildings and thoroughfares are purposefully constructed symbols of wealth and power that dictate who’s in charge, maintains Madhu Jain, as she ruminates on the city’s hierarchy by design…

A dear friend who lives in New York returned to New Delhi after a gap of a few years and was amazed by the changes in the city. “I can’t recognise Delhi. It is no longer the place I grew up in....” However, the litany about what is missing is also endless. “Where have all the old haunts gone?” Our old compass to navigate the city is now an anachronism.

We both got our master’s in English literature from Miranda House before going our separate ways: she to Mount Holyoke College in the United States and I to the Sorbonne in Paris. In our salad days, we would rarely go directly to our respective homes after classes at Delhi University. We hopped off the university special bus near Connaught Place and vagabonded the hours away, walking up and down Janpath, the animated avenue that led up to Connaught Place.

CP, as it was called then (and perhaps now as well), was the centre of the universe for us. And, the centre did hold. Everything fanned out from the radial roads originating in the inner and outer rings of Connaught Place. It was ideal for flâneurs. Here, the beautiful people sauntered. The Oxbridge types, who were home for a bit before returning to England. Or the other blue-chip ‘suitable’ young men and women going ‘across the pond’ to the United States: both got the once-over from us, and others like us.

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June - July 2019

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