Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Kabuliwalahs: Lajpat Nagar

(Text and Photos by Pupps Roy)

Yes they still sell dry fruits and engage in money laundering.  Well, the former happens in Delhi and the latter source is not a part of the story. A gritty side of Delhi wrapped in exotic Candy Floss. Come eat it. The Crowd, hustle busle, flea Market and people are around everywhere. They are walking, running and also shoving you if you plunge into the crowd of Central Market. Once a refugee colony still maintains its status for many. Welcome to Lajpat Nagar. One of a kind and is the largest colony in the entire south Delhi. Lajpat nagar has a history of embracing foreigners from pre-independence era. Many outsiders have made this colony to their home but the presence of Afghan Community has been manifested since many years very strongly. Some have their business, some come to India for the medical facilities, Some for studies and rest are living here permanently while others are just having a good time in Delhi as tourists.

There is no reason why have there been so many Afghanis. In the close vicinity of Lajpat nagar in Bhogal area there is even a specialized Afghani hotel called "Hotel Kabuli". There are handfuls of Afghanis in Bhogal but the whole lot continue to exist in Lajpat nagar for over a decade. They look different so they are easily identifiable. Tall, extra fair with long clothes and loud accent. That’s how they have been dealing in business. Many fly over the borders to India to sell dry fruits. Aaraq or Aaragh is 32 years old man and drives a Honda City and has an Indian Driving license. He finds handling business in Delhi easy but again there is a lot of competition with other Afghanis who are emerging in the same business every single day. With more and more Afghanis pouring in Lajpat Nagar has become the hub of Afghanis.

Welcome to "Kabul Delhi Restaurant". This is a pure Afghani restaurant where they serve delicacies of Afghanistan. It is located right across the Central Market. You can actually see all tables are full and mostly Afghan patrons and few Indians are starting at the menu deciding and discussing what to order. This busy restaurant also has a dias where you can sit down cross-legged and eat. It’s like sitting on the floor and eating food. This restaurant is tiny but looks pretty with the giant picture of Ayatollah Khomeini that goes so well with the size of bread that they serve with pickled lady fingers, worth a try. The best and talked about dish here is Biriyani and korma served by some young Afghan men.

Back to the rutted road of Lajpat Nagar. Next to Kabul restaurant is an Afghan Medical store. Even the name and the address is written in Afghani language or in Arabic. Afghani Women walking in groups and one of them is carrying a Haruki Murakami, hawkers shouting and selling their stuff, Rickshaw walas are waiting for their customers, a group of young men are congregating around the tea stall and engrossed in some loud conversation, Smart Afghani guys in skinny jeans are coming out of the parlor one by one and the scene goes on and on. There is a also a small travel agency that sells direct ticket of some Afghan airline and also promoting medical tourism. On top of it there is a sign of "Room to let". Everyone has a place to stay and live their own in Delhi. Diversified Delhi is proud to host Afghan Community in its warm lap of Lajpat Nagar. Its crowded but welcoming. So come and absorb.

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