Shama Ghar – Sardar Patel Marg – a street occupied by the Delhi’s powerful elite Now owned by Mayawati of BSP. Shama Ghar — named after the Urdu magazine Shama that its previous owners published — that occupied the corner spot on the famed road.
Outside, in his little paan and bidi shop, Mohammed Sultan recalls the transformation. Running the shop from the same spot for 25 years, he has seen it all — celebrities like Meena Kumari, Nargis and other Bollywood actors who filtered in and out of the famous landmark building that was also once referred to as Delhi’s Taj Mahal, the numerous mushaira sessions and parties in those days, and then the packing and moving, the demolition, and the trumpet of the elephant. Sultan lived in the help’s quarters those days. “It was a beautiful white house. It was painful for the family to sell it. I have never seen any of the members come back again,” he said.
The acquisition is symbolic of the rise of Dalits and the fall of Muslims in India. That’s how Sadia Dehlvi, the writer who was born in the Shama Ghar in 1957, describes it.
Her father Yusuf Dehlvi owned the house, but had to sell it to the BSP around 2002 after he fell on hard times and the Urdu film magazine, Shama, brought out by Shama Publishing House, was no longer a profitable venture. The glorious tradition of a house that was a culture hub ended in 1987 when there was a rift in the family and its fortunes took a beating. It’s a hard subject for her to revisit. She hasn’t even crossed the street since the house was sold.
“Life has to go on. Nobody in the family wants to talk about it. I will say one thing. The house has been lucky for Mayawati,” said Dehlvi. “You have to respect her as a woman who came from nowhere. It is a symbol of social mobility.” “Dalits have done better. They have moved one notch up,” she said.
There are rumours that the house was sold for Rs 22 crore. While Dehlvi said she could not confirm the figure as she wasn’t part of the negotiations, she added it was sold for “very little.” “Mayawati has struck gold with it,” Dehlvi said.