We Can Never Be the Original Khan Market Gang

While We Bribed Officials for a Scooter, Some People Just Called to get Cars
(Image Courtesy: Rediff.com)

Yes, even I studied as a ‘Patelian’ back in the day, with the Khan Market in vicinity. And no, I am not part of the OG Khan Market Gang that Sowmya Lakhani so proudly belongs to. The problem with her limited periphery of sight, blinkered by holier than thou attitude, symbolizes all that is wrong with the Khan Market gang.

What is this Khan Market gang, one may ask. Let me tell you, being a peripheral player, what it means. Schools like Columba’s, Modern and Sardar Patel were for the longest time populated by the children of New Delhi elite, who actually had extremely privileged lives, and access to several things that people like us living on the periphery of the city did not get. Children in this school are divided by class consciousness of an acute kind, with groups living in bubbles –many of these children faced first world problems, with the others just looking on, somewhat puzzled, somewhat in awe, and sometimes in depression due to constant haranguing and bullying. I remember there was a big fight in school that never got to see the light of the day, where a new inductee was bashed by one of those elite children’s gang. Never on good terms with them, he was one of those peripheral children of Delhi. Much could be read into it, except one that will never be read – there was perhaps no acceptability for the likes of us. Their modern avatars today concentrate themselves in Sanskriti School today among others, with their lofty aims of changing the world, unlike us puny people who wanted to be empowered enough to get a decent job and perhaps move on in life. Our struggles of daily lives were alien to them and their parents, who could pontificate of course on all the ills of the country sitting in the Khan Market restaurants.

Let me tell something about Khan Market for the unaware. Khan Market is located next to one of the oldest localities of New Delhi, Sujan Singh Park, built in the late nineteen forties for the likes of Khushwant Singh’s father, who was a brown Sahib in British India, earning off contractorship. The apartments house the old elite, with ownership passing on to the new chatterati of New Delhi. The market was forged for this very elite, who would only have to deal with the minions on a transactional basis at best. Located close to housing meant for civil servants, the crowds that be would represent the ones who had everything, who could pull favors to get things streamlined without batting an eyelid. They would sit in their drawing rooms, while their children would use government backed facilities, each lamenting the state of affairs of the country. Would any of them share even a swimming pool with the peripheral residents? Not in their lifetime. All they would have in their minds is contempt for the country and its Hindu rate of growth, always remarking how nothing would ever change. I need not say much – Tavleen Singh gave an honest answer about this lot to which she herself belonged once in her window-into-New-Delhi book Durbar. Suffice to say that the mindset has never really changed.

Having passed out of such a school, these obvious faultlines become a part of your existence in more than one way. You wonder sometimes the reason behind this sense of entitlement that you encounter about these people. Those stereotypical Delhi people you see in comic videos? It was this very set of everyone-knowing-everyone that lived it on a daily basis, unlike us peripherals, who were always afraid of a dysfunctional legal system. We were not the ones who escaped as labour in other countries to better our lives, knowing that there was not even a glimmer of hope towards an improvement in our lives. They dialed numbers to get cars, while we paid bribes to get our hands on scooters. We were the ones who studied in candlelight while New Delhi glowed in the night time, and the children of Lutyens hung around in Khan Market in the night, knowing that they will be taken care off by their daddy or their mummy. And in their hallowed circles, even as they danced away to the latest tunes from the West, poking fun of the shabby Bollywood ripoffs, we were to be granted entry only as objects of curiosity and entertainment; never to be, however, seen on an equal footing.

You want to know what is the difference between India and Bharat? Just look at the distinction of Khan Market and Mayur Vihar, and you will know.


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