Posted November 13th 2010 at 2:48 pm by
in 3. Portraits of Place, Khirkee Village, New Delhi

The Mall Across from Khirkee

This post is part of the Portraits of Place series.

Inside the Mall Inside the Select City Walk Mall across from Khirkee.

For the past three days, I have been exploring both Khirkee Village and the Extension.  I wanted to know what the residents here liked about their neighborhood, and what someone like me, a firangee, which means foreigner in Hindi, should be sure to see. I asked people who were willing to chat with me in the small stores and on the street this question.  I inquired, “What’s your most favorite place around here?  Where do you like to go?”

I was sure people would tell me to  visit the historic mosque, but this was not the case. The answer was always the same: the mall! People seemed to think the mall was the best addition to the area yet, and it was the best place to go on the weekends. Some people even indicated that they were able to sell their goods, such as hand embroidery or woven fabrics, to the mall. No one I spoke with seemed to think that the mall was negatively affecting their neighborhood, spurring too much gentrification, or threatening the preservation of their land. The fifteen community members I chatted with described the mall as badiya, which means amazing.

And so, I crossed the two-way highway to see the badiya mall. Even though just one road separates Khirkee and the Mall, the two places could not be more different.

Road to Cross the Mall This is the road that separates the Mall and Khirkee.

The Mall View of the Mall from Khirkee.

I shared the findings of my conversations with the other workshop participants at our morning reflection meeting because I was confused about how I was supposed to feel about this mall. People were really interested in my methodology for collecting answers about favorite places in Khirkee. Someone quickly pointed out that the word “favorite” might be an elitist word. “What favorite means to you is not what favorite might mean to the residents of Khirkee. Is the word favorite actually synonymous for something else like safe, clean, or recreational?  Does it have to do with how much time one spends in the place?” Another person mentioned that perhaps people told me that the mall is the place I should be sure to see because of who I am… “Maybe the residents of Khirkee thought you would not like other places in the area, and that someone like you would be more impressed by the mall.”

When Khirkee community members told me that they loved the mall, I always tried to push the question.  I wanted to know why, and I wanted to better understand what they liked in the village and extension.  I would respond to them by asking, “But is there a tea shop you like to frequent or a place you go that makes to happy?”  One man laughed at me and said, “Tea is tea.  It doesn’t matter where I drink it.”

Photos by Aditi Mehta

Please visit URBZ, Khoj, and Knowledge Live to learn more about Urban Typhoon and follow what is happening in Khirkee.

Aditi Mehta received her Masters in City Planning from MIT in June 2010. This is the second Urban Typhoon workshop she is attending. The first one she went to was in Koliwada in Dharavi, Mumbai. Her other series on CoLab Radio include Who’s on Broad and The Library and Society.

2 responses to “The Mall Across from Khirkee”

  1. Alexa Mills says:

    This is fascinating.

  2. Stefanie says:

    Wow Aditi, this is super interesting! It’s kinda funny… in Cartagena when we asked the students to take us to a good place to eat, they took us to the food court in the mall. We seriously went there at least three times in the course of our short trip there. They were much less impressed or excited about the places that we wanted to check out… hole in the wall places with cheap lunch meals that they frequented every day. It seems like there are many interpretations of what this could mean, and these interpretations live together in seemingly contradictory coexistence. I think you capture this well in your post, with thoughts from others that residents might suggest this to impress you, to the quote from the man who says that tea is tea.

    Maybe there is an unrequited dream of luxury and escapism that we have in common as people and the mall is a close colonial manifestation of this? Maybe in places where there is limited space, people express their identity through activities (sports, drawing, etc) or relationships rather than spaces? Maybe people have a love/hate relationship with the places that are more common to their everyday experiences? Or maybe, as you suggest, there is another question that is outside of what we know to ask?

  3. […] some background on Khirki, and shared what I learned about un-zoned land, the historic mosque, the brand new mall, and the problem of unpaved streets.  Different teams have took on various endeavors in the […]