Fatehpuri Chowk was covered in my first post on Shahjahanabad, covering the Khari Baoli and Katra Neel areas. That was back in 2009, when I had visited Fatehpuri Chowk for the very first time. On turning off Chandni Chowk and experiencing Fatehpuri Chowk the first few times (before the place became familiar to me), I very clearly remember feeling that this was what a bustling town in India would have looked/felt like in the 1940s, 50s, 60s (click here for the flickr set). Whether that is accurate or not, Fatehpuri Chowk definitely elicited an emotional response from me, as I think it would from many people who visit it.
One of the striking architectural features of the chowk was a building on one of it’s corners, built sometime in the mid-20th c., with it’s prominent rounded parapets displaying somewhat of a streamlined deco look. Unfortunately, when I visited Fatehpuri Chowk in late 2011, this corner building had been half-demolished, and that is how it stands today. The demolition was probably stopped mid-way for some reason by the authorities, but too late to save the structure from losing its original character completely, and beyond any reasonable expectation of restoration. The building will probably eventually come down completely, and a new one come up in it’s place, probably one not as evocative as the former.
While this is obviously a disappointment, it comes as no surprise at all. These kinds of demolitions are probably a daily occurrence in the old city, with this example gaining our attention only because it is so prominently located. The character that the old city has had over the past few decades is slowly eroding due to actions like these. These buildings are considered to hold no historic importance since they are “new” compared with older structures abundant in Delhi, the idea being that a time period that people alive today can still remember back to is not considered part of history but the “present”. There is too much real-estate pressure to build newer and bigger, the owners don’t have the inclination or wherewithal to implement the type of restoration work needed for structures like this, and the authorities are as usual apathetic and non-supportive.
This building is indicative of the direction the entire old city is headed, and indicative of how desperately programs need be put into place to sensitize owners of the historic value of such structures and to assist them financially with restoration efforts, as part of a larger restoration scheme for the old city.The corner building on Fatehpuri Chowk as it existed in July 2009