The abandoned mansions of Patel Nagar

- February 11, 2024

The place that was once home to noted writers such as Bhisham Sahani and Amrita Pritam, now is full of haunted houses over which builders have set their eyes

DESERTED : The houses that lie in a state of disrepair are worth several crores

They are mute witnesses of fast-changing Delhi. They have seen better times, hosting lavish parties and functions. They were envied as address. Living in these huge mansions, with manicured lawns and high walls, at the main Patel Nagar stretch was once a dream of every Dilliwala.

Only those among the wealthiest and most well-connected lived there.

But for some reasons, several of these mansions in the prestigious stretch have been deserted for long. The crumbling sepia-coloured mansions continue to intrigue and fascinate you. There’s something eerie about them as they now lie in a state of disrepair.

Even as unending heavy traffic moves on 24×7 in the glittering main Patel Nagar, some of these mansions with locked gates remain dark as nobody lives there. In some such mansions, stray dogs have made their homes. Nobody harasses them here. This has become their world.
Built on the land of Shadipur Khampur village in 1950s, almost all of these huge mansions belonged to Punjabis.

These structures, with their crumbling walls, hold spine-tingling secrets. Surely, there must be a fair share of spooky tales associated with them.

A resident of Patel Nagar since 1956, Ramakant Goswami, who is an ex-cabinet minister of Delhi Government, says that there was a time when living in main Patel Nagar gave you an edge in the class-conscious society of Delhi. However, living here now is a nightmare due to heavy traffic.

Notwithstanding the traffic and commercial buildings that are coming up fast, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for these ghost-haunted houses. When you see them, you tend to think: Who owns them? Why their owners are not taking care of their homes?
“The abandoned homes are in a sorry state due to family disputes.

I know that they are not being sold as some members of the family are not willing to dispose of them. In some cases, the owners of deserted homes live abroad and they have no time either to sell or look after them,” says Rajesh Vaccher, a well-known real estate consultant of Patel Nagar and Karol Bagh areas.

When you look at them from a distance, you realise that nobody has been living in them for several years. In some cases, may be for decades.
But Ravinder, a local Patel Nagar social worker, says that the deserted homes are not always empty inside. They are full of household items like television, refrigerators, ACs, sofa and beds.

“As nobody is taking care of them, they look absolutely haunted and scary.”

There is an abandoned house here, whose deteriorating condition goes hand-in-hand with the horrifying tales. Once owned by a famous jeweller, the house is said to have a terrifying past that includes weird sounds, rare sightings, and unexplained presences.

It is said that the daughter of the owner used to have many dolls. She was obsessed with them and due this reason, the house became famous as a doll-house. Small girls of the area used to throng her house to play with dolls.

Among the two old families that are still living there are of Hakim Harikishan Lal and Narangs of Ayur Herbals. It is possible that youngsters may not recognise Hakim Harikishan Lal, a man with big moustaches.

But till 25 years ago, an advertisement that used to be published with his photograph in local papers, would read like this: “Before or after marriage, come and regain your lost vitality, virility and vigour. Consult world renowned Hakim Hari Kishan Lal (Sexologist).”

Hakim Lal, as the lead star of an advertisement film and on hoardings behind buses, became a symbol of sexuality. A hoarding of the Hakim can be seen at his house. He had his clinic at Lal Kuan in Delhi-6.

Along the densely-packed main Patel Nagar, there was a light pink-coloured house. On the name plate, one could read ‘Nairobi House’. A Sikh family that had business interest in East African country, Kenya, owned it. The family is no longer there. After remaining in a terrible state, the house was replaced by a commercial building.

The family of Lalit Suri, a former Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh and founder of Lalit Hotel, too had a house on the main road of Patel Nagar. Suri’s father had built that house and all his kids lived there.

Patel Nagar was the bastion of Khukrain-Khatri community of Delhi. This community has surnames like Kohli, Suri, Sabbarwal, Anand and Sahani. Noted Hindi writer Bhisham Sahani owned a house in East Patel Nagar. There was a time when Jagmohan, the former LG of Delhi, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Lok Sabha member, and writer Amrita Pritam too were residents of Patel Nagar.

However, they all lived in East Patel Nagar. Former Indian cricket team captain Bishan Singh Bedi also lived in South Patel Nagar for several years when he came to Delhi in late 1960s.

Will the abandoned homes remain in same condition for another 5-10 years?

“I do not think so,” says Devinder Gupta, managing director of DGS Realtors, before adding, “As Patel Nagar property is worth more than gold, the builders would not wait for so long. They would contact the owners with tempting offers. Surely, they would clinch the deal. Already many builders have managed to buy the abandoned homes. After buying them, they are constructing buildings there.”

Are the dilapidated homes with nobody to look after them only in Patel Nagar? No, not at all. Such houses can be found across Delhi.

Each of such houses is worth between Rs 20 crores to Rs 100 crores, in fact, even more. Of course, the cost is determined according to location, area and size of the plot. Who knows when the deserted homes will see better times?

Manoj Kumar, the Bollywood star of yesteryears, would also be saddened to see so many dilapidated houses in Patel Nagar. His in-laws lived there and he would visit the locality often till 1990s.

Savita Behn, his mother-in-law, was a known political leader in Patel Nagar.

Says writer Harish Chandra, who lives in Shadipur Khampur village, “The big mansions across the road are another world for us. We hardly know all those who live inside those massive houses. They belong to another class. It is a different matter that the entire Patel Nagar was built on the land of our village. Even Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) was built on our village land. The parks in Patel Nagar are the only places where all of us converge in the morning though. It is a classless place.”

For generations of students and teachers of the Springdales School, Patel Nagar remained an enviable place as the founder of the school, Rajni Kumar nee Joyas Margaret Jones lived there. Married to Yudhister Kumar on January 30, 1948, she set up a school in her in-laws’ Patel Nagar house before establishing Springdales School at the Pusa Road.

“It goes without saying that for the girls of Patel Nagar, Karol Bagh, Rajinder Nagar and various central and west Delhi colonies, getting admission to Springdales School was never an issue thanks to Rajni Kumar.”