Delhi's Outer Circle
It's the part of central Delhi that time forgot. I lived in the city for a total of seven years. But it was a brief visit back at the beginning of the month that gave me my first real opportunity to explore the outer circle of once grand Connaught Circus, Indira Chowk I think it's now called.
It's a wonderful amalgam of small leather shops, a (remarkably well stocked but tiny) Communist bookstore, dusty offices, sparkling car showrooms - and stores which feel as if they haven't changed since independence. The likes of Harison's 'high class furniture', and next to it my favourite, Marques & Co's music shop.
The window is emblazoned with the 'by appointment' coats of arms of the Raj's great and the good, and some not-so-good. There's not many commercial establishments which would want to boast a connection with the Earl of Willingdon, Imperial Viceroy of India for five years in the 1930s. He was noted for taking a distinctly hard line against the increasingly assertive Indian nationalist movement.
His wife created Lodhi Gardens - which is much to her credit, until you realise that several urban villages were razed to clear the area round the gumbads and Lodhi-era tombs.
The shop front has survived unscathed since, well, anyone's guess. And there are nice touches now largely hidden from view. So above the splendid 1950s-style name board there's a slightly hip design built around music notation - now, frustratingly, hidden by a staunch metal shutter. The overall effect is charming - I'm so glad it's survived.
The business was established by Franz Marques in 1918, about whom I have been able to find out very little - and it has a website with its own distinct charm, including an endorsement from 1927 by Field Marshal Sir William Birdwood, Bart. And the firm's onetime locations - 'Bombay, Delhi, Simla' - are a distinct throwback to the Raj.
I have to confess I didn't go into the store - just took photos of its wonderful exterior (including the almost self-portrait to the right).
I did wonder how it keeps in business. Though I see on the internet some very warm and admiring comments about Marques. And indeed when I mentioned at home about my time travel in outer CP, my wife chirped up: "Marques - that's where we bought Samira's saxophone."
So, I am happy to say, the Whitehead family has played some very modest part in patronising one of Delhi's most evocative stores.
As a matter of courtesy, I let Marques & Co know about this blog - and they sent this even more courteous response:
Leave a Reply.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!