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The urban village of Shahpur Jat has huge untapped potential to develop as a cutting-edge arts space
The tree-hemmed winding lanes lead to single-storey studio apartments followed by boutiques, restaurants and art galleries — Delhi's urban villages are where the sylvan past meets the present boho-chic. They aren't akin to the meatpacking art districts of New York or London's West End Fritzovia area, but urban villages in Delhi have immense potential to develop into formidable alternative spaces for art. Unfortunately though, most of them remain untapped and unexplored. While Hauz Khas Village had the backing of radicals like fashion designer Bina Ramani, leading to its development as a happening hang-out, Shahpur Jat lagged behind.
Jaiyhree Pawar, area counsellor of Shahpur Jat and former mayor of Delhi, feels that its legal status is a deterrent in its development. Unlike its cousins — Hauz Khas Village and Lado Sarai — serving alcohol is prohibited in Shahpur Jat. "Earlier, areas like Sheikh Sarai, Hauz Khas Village, Khirkee Village and Lado Sarai were Laldora (illegal). We have managed to get Shahpur Jat the status of an urban village and have been trying to get legal sanction for commercial activities in the area, but at the moment Kamal Nath (Ministry of Urban Development) has not made it a priority," says Pawar. She also observes that the issue leads to lack of infrastructure, including parking space, bad roads and drainage. "It is a pity because it is located in the centre of the city and can become pretty and prosperous," she adds.
While a number of artists have rented studios in Shahpur Jat, it is difficult to have a commercial gallery or a reasonably priced alternative art space here. "When Prema Kurian had her gallery here, about three to four years ago, it was a thriving space. The craft shop of the Dastkar Society for Crafts and Crafts people and Alter Ego, a Prêt-à-Porter design studio added to the ambience. Now, Alter Ego has moved to a smaller space; the other two have shut down," says artist Manish Gera Baswani, who recently moved her studio to Gurgaon from Hauz Khas.