A visit to Mohan Singh Place (MSP) is no less than time travel; this establishment was probably the first realization of the shopping mall, as we know it today. It was built in 1965 when such commercial structures, that combined shops and offices, were called shopping complexes. Today, the building owned by New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), is an amalgamation of tailors, travel agents, few general stores, a stamp shop, the legendary, beloved India Coffee House and another unreasonably low priced eatery. To reach Mohan Sing Place one should get out of gate number eight of the Rajiv Chowk metro station and walk towards the Baba Kharak Singh Marg or the Regal Cinema, you’ll find this seven floored building just behind PVR Rivoli.
History: Mohan Singh Place is named for Sardar Mohan Singh, one of the five Sikh building contractors of the British Raj’s New Delhi. This landmark of our city is sandwiched between the PVR Rivoli multiplex and Hanuman Temple and if you walk a little further you can eat good langar at the beautiful Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. As a government should, for welfare, the shops of the complex were allotted to the refugees from Pakistan upon completion. Most of them have moved on but there are some who have seen the places change and become this highly functional hub, even though it has seen sever neglect. And it is the will of these shop owners and their high productivity that keeps this place still running, taking all that baggage, which all old Indian structures have face, in its stride. In the days gone by, the shop owners and management tells us, this place was somewhat of a trade center for travelling traders from Eastern Europe who would barter products from their country for Indian fabrics and other stuff.
Boot Polish: The entrance of the Mohan Sing Place is lined with boys scanning the crowd at feet level to find someone roaming the historical Connaught place with dusty shoes. When they spot the culprit they look them right in the eye, their mouth mechanically going, “sir, boot polish, joota chamkalo sabh,” and you are guilt-tripped into getting your shoes polished. Once you see the end product though, you consider it an investment rather than an expense. It costs anywhere from Rs. 40 to Rs. 100 or more, depending upon the quality of the leather of your shoes.
Tailors: The Inside of this erstwhile “shopping mall” is more interesting than the outside. The architecture is classic Indian Government/ Indian post independence 60s style. It is worth a visit for students of architecture, a spin-off of this building with modern elements could be really interesting. People mostly come here for getting jeans stitched and “branded” for much less than what they pay at Lives or other such big brands. The numerous tailor shops are stock different quality denims fabrics ranging from Rs. 450 onwards. The price of stitching is anywhere from Rs. 170 to Rs. 200. In about Rs. 800 to Rs. 1000 you will have custom made jeans to embrace you curvaceous legs or fall straight over your long shapely limbs or hug you skinny long legs.
Adding some more money can get you a custom made distress jeans or even a “branded” pair of denims, all they have to do is stick a label (if you know what we mean). This place is a gem for shoppers who are plus-size as we will always find a tailor who fits something for us.
Popular tailors: Forty Eight Jeans, Vogue Jeans Tailor & Drapers, Prince Perfect Jeans, Blue Fox Jeans, Good Fit Jeans and Maqbool Sons
Travel Agent: Another big business at Mohan Singh Place is making people go on a trip. The shop owners that are not tailors are travel agent shops. From full international tour to simple weekend tour of the hill stations north of Delhi you’ll find an agent who sends you on a trip of your leisure here at Mohan Singh Place. There are also travel agents who book religious tours of Hajj and Char Dhaam Yatras.
India Coffee House: A refuge for students and everyone else on tight budget to hang out in Connaught Place. The place retains the decor from 1960s when it opened. It is an institution and was once, a hotbed of political discussions and student revolutions. One of Delhi’s distinguished residents and prolific writers, Kushwant Singh has mentions this café time and again in his work. A great place to chill during the winters, India coffee house used to be and still is a hub for literary people who like to talk over Rs. 12 cup of coffee for hours and hours. Though you might have to fight monkeys of your plates the food is simple, no-fuss and cheap.
Meal for two: Rs. 150-200
Nearest Metro: Rajiv Chowk