Delhi — the national capital and the city of bureaucrats — has undergone a significant amount of transformation since independence from the British rule. The city has been expanding its geographical as well as cultural reach. One of the remarkable evolution stories the city has to offer comes in the form of Hauz Khas Village (HKV).
One of the most cherished changes on the face of the national capital, the gentrification of Hauz Khas has transformed it into the go-to market for any ambitious restaurateur, nightclub owner, or couture retailer, effectively taking over the older hubs like Khan Market, Defence Colony, and South Extension.
The story of this underutilized part of the city turning into a posh hub is nothing short of a fairy tale come true, which began back in 1987, when the veteran fashion designer Bina Ramani bought a cowshed in Hauz Khas Village, and carved a chic designer boutique out of it. However, acquiring the cow shed didn’t come easy to Ramani, as she had to convince the local villagers as well as their Pradhan.
Former Pradhan of the village, Mahinder Singh recollects, “At first, we didn’t understand what she (Bina Ramani) wanted. However, when she offered Rs 2,000 for a cowshed which was fetching a measly Rs 600, we knew it was a good deal. Soon, she revamped the cowshed, decorated it with arches and mirrors, installed an AC, stashed fancy suits and dresses and invited her friends to visit.”
While the boutique drew the capital’s elite to the hitherto unknown village, Bina Ramani went on to partner with a prominent businessman for setting up an upscale restaurant named ‘Bistro’, in a plot which the locals had discarded. The eatery did exceptionally well, although Ramani withdrew from the venture after a while. She brought with her a legion of designers, fashionistas and artists, and it was this community that defined the market for nearly two decades.
The villagers reaped the benefits of the setup too. Their economic condition improved significantly as the gentrification added grace to Hauz Khas Village, putting together designers with their art galleries and high-value curio shops, and the presence of smaller artists. The interplay between history, culture, creativity and modernity, brought about by Bina Ramani back in the 80s, is what Hauz Khas has thrived on.