Remember, Remember, the 5th of November. On any other day, residents of CR Park would have celebrated this date with great joy and festivity – but the 150th birth anniversary of ‘Deshbandhu’ Chittaranjan Das, was marked only by a couple of posters here and there and some garlands at the welfare center. I’d assume a low-key event with some old-timers would have taken place there in the daytime but by night all was forgotten.
One could almost be forgiven for missing this date. One board outside E Block and another outside the community center marked the occasion, otherwise hidden from your eyes unless you’re searching for them. One could also be forgiven for dismissing the lights as just Diwali decor. Just like how non-residents could be forgiven for asking if the locality is named after a park or a garden. Back when the city was still young and the nation an infant, the 40s and 50s saw rapid expansions as Delhi, once seven cities or eleven (depending on who you ask), was being integrated into one metropolis. The first extension came in the form of the diplomatic bungalows of Chanakyapuri, and the second spread saw the construction of what one would refer to as those posh South Delhi areas. Greater Kailash and Lajpat Nagar among other places started taking shape. This list also included a plot of land which would eventually become CR Park.
While the first efforts towards setting up a colony for the East Pakistan Displaced Persons (EPDPs) was envisioned in 1954, it took another 14 years till the allotment can begin – and two more years post that when people started moving in. 1970 is the accepted year – and 2020 marks its 50th anniversary, celebrated nor with a bang and neither with a whimper, as it should be in these our pandemic affected times. “EPDP Housing” was later renamed to Chittaranjan Park after the eponymous hero of the area, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das – associated with some of the greatest names of the independence era such as Dadabhai Naoroji, Aurobindo Ghosh, and even Mahatma Gandhi. He was also the first mayor of Calcutta.
As Chittaranjan Park, which literally translates to ‘The park that gives joy to the soul’, completes 50 years today, here’s an interesting factoid: there are 16 blocks in the area: 11 lettered A-K, and four more, lettered M-P. The sixteenth block, interestingly, is not the L block, but block K1. The hunt for why this letter was omitted continues.
Special mention to one ‘Samvada Podcast’, which held a talk with some of the stalwarts of CR Park, living here since the 70s on this occasion. You can watch it here. Some interesting stories there provided you speak the language. Another shoutout to one Spandan Das, who has published quite an interesting account of CR Park on issuu, as a part of their Masters Thesis. You can read it here. One final shoutout to Neighbourhood Diaries, a very unique community initiative in keeping the memory and heritage of CR Park alive.
(Recommended Reading: Gods of the Green Room)