Delhiites of my generation, would remember The Emporium (as it was commonly known), located in an old World Was II double-storey barrack, behind the row of shops, known as the Janpath Market, that itself still stands fairly unchanged. It was the go-to place for any kind of special shopping for gifts, for all visitors to the city and foreign tourists. It also had the “Bankura’ cafe – the ‘in’ place for hanging out and meeting up with friends- where a quiet rendezvous was not possible because Delhi was such a small place, that you always ran into people who knew you. It was where you went for burger, fries and chicken sandwich, with nimboo paani at affordable prices.The Central Cottage Industries Emporium (http://www.cottageemporium.in/index.php), which is the official name, moved to its more modern location on the lower floors of the Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan on Janpath, a few decades ago.
The present location has vast spaces and a huge and impressive inventory – almost anything that is an Indian craft can be found here – from high end hand made jewellery, Indian art (both tribal and contemporary), sarees, ready made garments and cloth by the yard from many parts of the country, brass ware, stoneware, silverware, bidriware……. These wares are spread over many levels but the lift access is limited (not marked anywhere) and since there are many half levels, the lift cannot take you to all levels. The toilets are few and poorly marked, and cannot be located without asking for directions.
Even through the many decades that I lived outside Delhi, I never missed an opportunity to wander through the shop if I was anywhere near that part of Delhi with time on hand. However, since I moved back to the NCR, I have visited it infrequently. My recent one fell at the end of March. Never great for the quality of the Shop Assistants, the ‘year closing’ had them all busy in counting wares, checking inventories etc. with little time for customers. And customers were very few indeed,the shop not being in a location that would attract the casual passer-by. The inventory was poor, and I was told that fresh stocks would only come in April. On Tripadvisor, the general feeling by reviewers is that things are highly priced, and my cursory visit would confirm this. The Cottage Cafe however was OK, (3.4 on Zomato) but did not evoke any of the nostalgia of the old Bankura.
On the same day, I had to visit the easily recognizable ‘Broadcasting House’ on Parliament Street – this was a building that was part of my earliest memories of Delhi, dating back to the 1950s. With its very unique architecture and frontage, it was an easily identified landmark. It has not changed one bit inside or outside – although construction work was on in some of the recording studios as the Chief of AIR had managed to get some funds on the pretext that the PM may opt to record his monthly talk in the studio instead of at his office!
The central circular foyer, with the balconies overhanging this space, the marble staircase, the wooden balustrade all speak of times gone by. The old wooden cupboards displaying the history of sound reproduction, had dirty glass doors and dusty interiors. It held some nostalgia for me, as my father a great fan of Carnatic music had gone through many of these stages – the reel to reel players through many versions, then the cassette player – he never lived too far into the CD era. It would have upset him, if he could not have made copies of his music for other rasiks!! I also remembered, then how he and his friends would use their contacts within AIR, who had the only taped repository of music, to get music out of their collection. Times have changed, and now their whole collection is available free to all rasiks through Raagam
Many buildings built by the British, mostly in 19th and earlier part of 20th century, still stand all over the country. Hospitals, colleges, Universities, courts, offices from New Delhi to the districts, dak bugalows – many are still in use. The interiors have all been mostly scavenged, the original furniture discarded for the ubiquitous formica tops, floors replaced with shiny tiles etc. etc….While many have been sacrificed to the pressures of modernization in the big cities, one still sees many of them as you drive through smaller towns. Many are with the Government, like the Akashwani building. So it is indeed a disappointment, that while it has not been pulled down, little has been done to maintain it as it should!