The capital of India and the city of bureaucrats – Delhi has undergone a significant transformation ever since the country gained independence. From an archipelago of scattered colonies to a well-planned area, Delhi has been expanding its reach, both culturally and geographically. However, one of the fairytale-like evolution stories the city has to offer comes in the form of Hauz Khas Village, often addressed simply as HKV by the young Delhiites.
The gentrification of Hauz Khas village remains one of the most cherished changes on the face of Delhi. In a matter of just a few years, Hauz Khas became the go-to market for any ambitious restaurateur, nightclub owner, or couture retailer. The village has effectively overtaken the older hubs like South Extension, Khan Market, and Defence Colony. One might wonder, how did an underutilized rural part of the city turn into a posh hub?
The journey from Hauz Khas to becoming ‘HKV’ began back in 1987, when the well-known fashion designer Bina Ramani purchased a cow-shed there, and transformed it into an elegant designer boutique, which she named ‘Once Upon a Time’. The boutique drew the capital’s dazzlers into this hitherto unknown village. Acquiring the cow-shed, however, didn’t come easy to Ramani. She had to convince the local villagers, along with their Pradhan. Mahinder Singh, former Pradhan of the village, recollects, “At first we simply didn’t understand what she (Bina Ramani) wanted, but when she offered Rs 2,000 for a cow-shed that was fetching a measly Rs 600, we knew it was a good deal. She revamped the cow-shed, decorated it with mirrors and arches, installed an AC, stashed fancy suits and dresses and invited her high profile friends to visit. The trend caught on and all kinds of artsy people began to descend here.”
Around 1990, Bina Ramani partnered with a prominent businessman to set up ‘Bistro’, an upscale restaurant in a plot the villagers had discarded. The place did exceptionally well, despite Ramani withdrawing from the venture after a while. She brought with her a cohort of designers, artists and fashionistas, and for nearly two decades, it was this community that defined the market.
Consequently, the economic condition of the villagers improved significantly. The gentrification also added to the grace of the place, by combining the presence of smaller artists and designers along with art galleries and high-value curio shops. The interplay between culture, history, creativity and modernity, curated by Bina Ramani back in the 80s, is what Hauz Khas thrived on.
Today, Hauz Khas Village is nothing short of a realization of urban fantasies. With quaint gullies leading to tiny art galleries, the evolved rural area is now a place where the chic bohemians can live out a Soho-esque adventure with ease. Hauz Khas contains an undeniably particular energy here, a vortex of art you can’t help but be drawn towards.