Ancient ruins share space with pop art

Ancient ruins share space with pop art

In Shahpur Jat, an urban village located in South Delhi, a salsa dance school runs on Saturdays and Sundays for children aged 6-14 runs. So after classes get over, little girls are mostly escorted home by their mothers who have their heads draped in dupattas.

“You went to get your eyebrows done. Why did you lie to grandmother?” said a salsa girl to her mother. 

Besides these inter-generation interactions, city and foreign tourism flirt with the culture and ethos of the Shahpur Jat. 

Locals say that seven centuries ago Jats from what is now Haryana shifted to this place in search of fertile land after the Turko-Afghan Khilji dynasty made an exit.

And now in this old urban village, ancient ruins and stretches of fort walls amalgamate with the bric-a-brac of 20th century apartment and office blocks, built by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). Boutiques, cafes and eating joints with European names are popping up by the day and are attracting many tourists.

“Yea, it is good. This is place is more like a village,” said a Spaniard Albert Marabet who is touring India and has seen Indian villages. Marabet’s Japanese guide Kna was showing him the graffiti and murals that adorn the walls of Shahpur Jat during the 50-day, country’s first ‘purely’ street art festival – which brought together over 50 Indian and international street artists. 

Kna said locals don’t understand street art. “They hang their laundry in front of the graffiti,” she said, pointing at one. Kna has been living in Delhi for six years. She thinks Shahpur Jat is another Hauz Khas – a neighbouring urban village with more commercial character – in making.

“Only the roads are not so narrow as Hauz Khas. But expensive cafes and bars have come up here,” Kna said. She paused to draw an analogy: “This is like coming to Japan and drinking coffee.”

A local temple priest, Chandra Prakash said that in the last 30 years he has seen the place adorn a modernised look. He said that boutiques have turned Shahpur Jat into a fashionable place. There are countless small-scale workshops in the village that make fashion accessories and home décor items.

Prakash said that members of the temple insisted artists to paint a Krishna mural before painting anything else. Ratan Lal, a 74-years-old resident told the priest, “Why don’t you tell him the real issues?” He complained about water logging and streets getting narrower. “Slowly the buildings have started to inch towards the road. Earlier, it was all farmland,” said Lal.

When the winter sun is nice and bright, children of Shahpur Jat play and pose for pictures with foreign tourists. The elderly on the other hand enjoy the sun sitting on their charpoys.

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