My earliest memories of Haus Khaz Village have very little to do with its current status as Boho-Chic hub it has catapulted to in recent times. More than a decade ago, it was the quiet, quaint jigsaw of lanes that as school kids we never had the curiosity to explore. In those days, it remained to us, the morning walkers at the abutting District Park, the world on the other side, with only a handful of eateries( Nivedyam, which stands untouched), couple of bistros and a few smallish boutiques, that held little charms for our modest pockets in the late nineties.
A few years hence, architecture curriculum confirmed what we only faintly acknowledged before, that the neglected monuments, the water tank (Hauz) and the village that passed us by unnoticed through various mornings, were priceless pieces of history worth exploring, preserving and beautifying for progeny. A decade and a heartbeat later, Haus Khaz buzzes with energy and a crowd that is rare to find in any other part of our city. The seemingly small village is home to more than fifty odd cafes, bars and restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, art galleries, shops selling leather bags/shoes, kitsch, vintage stores and NGOs and what have you. Almost all the cafes/restaurants are approached through narrow staircases, a few levels high, where you could almost peep into the lives of the residents that share walls with these commercial joints. The paucity of space making elevators impossible to accommodate, the staircases accentuating the drama, stripping the pretense that surround most eateries in the city. Some of these also have rooftop settings with views to the lake and the monuments, while some adorn their businesses through graffiti and glass windows overlooking the lush surroundings.
The organic charm of the original village has been retained while multifarious interventions have penetrated the shell adding varying degrees of drama. While boutiques like Ogaan and Ole have re-interpreted some bits of the indigenous in their motifs, some have boldly opted for deconstructed metal shop fronts. Even the signboards grapple for space on the tight lanes, as do the fragrances from their respective kitchen- The Golconda Bowl, The People Cafe, Elma’s, Gun Powder, Yeti, flavors of the world, packed in a stride. Naturally, the vicinity attracts the seekers and creators of art, with various people collecting for book clubs, informal jamming sessions, or simply to write/read over a cup of coffee or beer.
Haus Khaz is no more the little quaint place of my childhood that few people had reasons to visit or knew about. It is now the place to be seen at not just by people but by established brands as well- Diva Piccola ( Ritu Dalmia’s second venture in the city) and The American Diner confirm that. So, if you have a weekend to spare, make time to lose yourself in these streets which swell with people in the evenings and where colors, smells, music, fashion and food arrange themselves in a chaos that is impossible to recreate within any other part of the vast, rapidly expanding boundaries of our city.