A Slice of Northeast in the heart of Delhi: Life in Humayunpur

A Slice of Northeast in the heart of Delhi: Life in Humayunpur

Entering the Space


As one emerges out of the Green Park metro station gate, one finds itself into a host of autowalas ready to take you places. ‘Humayunpur’ was our very destination. Mounting the auto for the ride, I recalled the first time when I had visited Humayunpur a few years back to meet a friend from my home town of Guwahati. The auto rides through the

Safdarjung Enclave road, with the deer park on the left and finally comes to a halt near the NCC gate. A fading blue signboard of the Delhi Development Authority greets us ‘Welcome to Humayunpur’. Tucked away in a corner of the posh Safdarjung enclave, opposite to the Deer park, Humayunpur – an urban village in south central Delhi known as the melting point of different cultures and for housing the migrant communities from the eight northeastern states amongst others.

Humayunpur is centrally located in South Delhi. It is Surrounded by Arjun Nagar, Krishna Nagar, Mohammadpur and Safdarjung Enclave. Various places such as the Green Park metro Station, Hauz Khas and the Outer Ring Road are conveniently accessible, at a distance of around one kilometre. What also amazed me is the end number of entries that this urban village consists. All roads and alleys leading towards Humayunpur!

Picture 2. Rented apartments and tangled electric wires. P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak )

Making sense of the Locality

Walking through the lane, one enters this strange and esoteric life world of Humayunpur. Dingy and narrow alleys, rows of multi coloured buildings sticking to each other, tangled web of electric wires hanging overhead, with two wheelers honking their way out through the maze. This urban village housing the largest migrant population from north-eastern India speaks immensely about the process of urbanisation riddled with migration and the making of a metropolitan city like Delhi. Crossing a small community park on the right, dotted with young boys and girls with fancy hair colours enjoying their evening adda (gathering for conversations), one can sense North-eastern language floating in air. The lane comes to a halt with three cafes facing us vehemently. The cafes are Bhansaghar, NCC and Cafe Garage. As one makes their way through a small alley passing through, there is a small temple on the left, a person from the jat community selling momos on the opposite, two steps down the lane one can find Yo-Tibet which is a Tibetan restaurant with its flashy exteriors and little ahead on the right is the famous Freedom Corner- one of the oldest Tibetan restaurants established around the early 2000sin Humayunpur serving Chinese, Thai and Tibetan cuisines. The inner lanes of Humayunpur are filled with end number of clothing stores displaying western outfits, mostly exported from China, Thailand and Nepal, a few tattoo parlours and hair salons, a famous Korean DVD shop exhibiting East Asian music, movies and television serials. One can not notice the numerous cafes and restaurants serving interesting culinaries from the northeast dotting the ‘gallis’ of Humayunpur. The haphazard alleys lit up with yellow, red and blue lights emanating from the nearby shops, the mix of Korean and North-eastern music in the background blended along with the aroma of various cuisines from the north-eastern state of Assam, Nagaland, Arunachal, Mizoram, Manipur, Sikkim etc. makes us think about the many dimensions of multiculturalism, urbanization and migration. The aura  of  which is exquisitely found in the village of Humayunpur.

On entering Humayunpur from the NCC gate side. These cafes and restaurants greets us. P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)

Origins and Transformations


A walk through Humayunpur is like taking a stroll through several civilizational layers at once. Hence the history of Humayunpur too, is therefore layered and thats what makes it utterly significant and undoubtedly interesting. The history of this place can only be understood if one doesn’t surreptitiously jump to the contemporary ramblings and instead

start from the beginning- from where it all started. This will give us a better sense of the origins of the place and its gradual transformations over time.

According to local narratives, which takes the shape of histories and is permeated from one generation to the other, Humayunpur once upon a time began as a Mohammaden settlement during the medieval period. Recent archaeological researches from the area have led to the unearthing of tombs belonging to the medieval times, precisely, that of late-Tughlaq or early-Lodi period. Around the 17th century this village was taken over by various Jat clans, such as the Tokas, the Phogats, the Mahalwals and the Singhs. The interesting point in the occupation of Humayunpur by all these clans is how each of them sought to claim this particular village called Humayunpur by asserting to have discovered it. Be it Roopa Ram and Ratiya Singh Tokas, descendants of Ruddh Singh Tokas in the year 1675 or Ch. Devi Singh Phogat in the year 1683, as indicated by the Bhat records of the Phogat clan, their intent was to seek claim over this region.

It was around the 1960s under the then Prime Minister of the country, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the Delhi Lease and Finance, later known as the DLF Limited, purchased the surrounding farmlands of Humayunpur to construct what later came to be known as Safdarjung enclave residential area. The spatial history of Humayunpur can’t isolate the history of Safdarjung Enclave which lies adjacent to it. The history of both these spaces are obtrusively interlinked. This enclave emerged as one of the very first colonies to be built post-partition which did not include land grants for refugees and victims of 1947 partition. This is in parallel with the process of urbanisation of Delhi, as a city. Urbanisations mean the transformation of rural areas into urban with the help of rapid

industrialisation and this process of urbanisation in Delhi can be clubbed under- planned

development, spatial expansion and structural changes, growth of urban population to name a few. The idea was to prepare a Master Plan for the development of Delhi and its environs, and the large scale acquisitions that followed transforming villages not just physically and socio-economically but also culturally. According to the Delhi Gazetteer of 1987 Humayunpur Village earlier called also called Hanumanpur at some point, was one of those villages that underwent urbanisation around 1951-1961. Though, some research do suggest that that the village was a sleepy hamlet till 1980s, distinguishing it from the many urban villages in Delhi which entered an intense period of industrialization and commercialization. It was inspite of the sparse urbanization, Humayunpur remained an ideal village that still maintained its traditional residential character. The houses during the time were surrounded by trees, had courtyards, community wells and arched entrances.

As with any other space across Delhi, the physical and social anatomy of Humayunpur has gone through alterations over time. A settlement which started with the sizeable number of Muslim populations gave way to the Jat clans and then later in 1990s the waves of migrant inflow- which can be divided into two strands. While the first wave emerged from somewhat neighbouring states along the likes of Delhi for instance – Bihar, Nepal, Haryana and U.P. The second wave comprised of people from the various north- eastern states of Assam such as Assam, Mizoram, Arunachal, Nagaland, Manipur and the rest. It was to accommodate these migrants who started residing in Humayunpur that one or two storeys began to be added to the earlier existing traditional houses. It is the process of urbanization followed by migration and co-habitation that has transformed

Humayunpur to what it is today.

Migration and Current Histories


Naguib Mahfouz, the great Egyptian writer who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1988 said-‘Home is not where you are born; home is where all your attempts to escape cease’. This quote perfectly describes the feeling of people from the Northeast who have migrated to Delhi and have stayed in Humayunpur. Dicky Bhutia, an Alumni of Lady Sri Ram College of Delhi University. Presently the owner of a prominent restaurant called Lha Kitchen in Humayunpur talks about her journey to Delhi as a student seeking better opportunity and finally starting her own business and experiences of residing in the urban village of Humayunpur. Miss Bhutia believes the place is really convenient and comfortable, especially for people migrating from the Northeast. It is the sense of safety and inclusiveness that this urban village provides. My detailed interview with Miss Bhutia later in this piece will help us understand Humayunpur better from her lenses.

Abhijit Phukan from Assam, an alumni of the university of Delhi, who completed his graduation in Political Science in the national capital has been residing in Humayunpur for around two years says- ‘Humayunpur is a convenient place to stay for students like us. Humayunpur feels not just homely but also very comfortable. Most of my friends are here too. I have got used to this place now’.

Humayunpur, an area with around 400 local jat households still remains to be one of the largest locality of the northeastern migrant population. An area with the largest Northeastern population as compared to similar localities such Amar Colony in Lajpat Nagar, Mukherjee Nagar and Munirka in Delhi.

Migration, and particularly migration post-1990s has played a significant role in the formation and structuring of Humayunpur as a multicultural space today. The inflow of population from the North-eastern states around the time is particularly because of the process of liberalisation. Delhi as a metropolitan city and as the National Capital has always attracted people from all over the country for its academic institutions, its job pursuits and exposure into a multicultural space and meet new people. It is for these reasons; it became a hub for people all over the country to fulfil their dreams of a better life. It is the urban village of Humayunpur which started accommodating people most of them being from the northeast, in search of better avenues and life. The inflow of migration began with the rise of job opportunities, be it in fashion, service sectors and the rest. During the early 2000s, the call centre booming which added into the reason for more and more people getting attracted to the national capital. All of this became an incentive for the rise of the migrant inflow towards Humayunpur. Duncan Mac-Duie Ra, a researcher from the University of New South Wales, in his book ‘The Northeast Migrants in Delhi : Race, Refuge and Retail’ states that the two main reasons for the migration from Northeastern part of India to Delhi is because of unemployment and the demand of labour from the northeast which needs to be understood in the context of  Delhi transforming into a ‘Global City’ through Neo-liberal capitalism and consumer business. The second reason is Delhi being the best destination of higher and tertiary education. This particularly has been a primary historical reason for migration from the Northeastern part of India. Therefore, one can’t help but notice how the the idea of capital interlinked with better livelihood became major factor for this upsurge in the number of

people migrating from Northeast. Moreover, it is the demography of both the regions that

emerge as important reasons for the same, the lack of many resources and exposure in the northeast in contrary to that of the Delhi regions is what attract the large influx of students from the former to the latter.

Humayunpur since the 1990s, has become a safe space of inhabitation for people migrating from different parts of the country’s northeastern region. It provided people a cheap housing along with a prime location, that of south-central delhi, closer to colleges, schools, shopping malls and other places of work. It remains interesting how the local jat population such as the Phogats, the Tokas, the Mahalwals and the Singhs who owned houses and lands in Humayunpur have either constructed flats, or have added floors to their easier traditional houses and leased it out on rents. Therefore the rise in the flow of migrants to Humayunpur has also led to the boom in the rent economy, bringing immense wealth and money in the hands of these landlords. This area which over time transformed into a migrant space is also a lal dora. Now what is a lal dora? The history of lal dora goes back to the British period in 1908. It was basically a red line carved out on maps delineating the village population from the nearby agricultural land for revenue records. One can build houses and construct establishments without strict norms and permissions. A lal dora is exempted from building by-laws, strict construction norms and regulations as regulated under the Delhi Municipal Act. While this term applies to both rural and urban villages, in our case here, we are especially referring to Humayunpur which is precisely an urban village. These strands of jat population are therefore striving on the northeastern population for their income. One can still see many houses with name plates of Phogats and Tokas. Both these communities, the Jats and the Northeastern’s sustain on

each other for their living which is indeed very evident. One can see how the space has



transformed and revolutionised with the presence of the northeastern population. It has led to the growth of a local economy with various restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, street shops, property dealers and travel agencies. All of which dots the narrow streets of Humayunpur.

This urban village has over time been familiarised by the migrant population residing in the locality. In a metropolitan city like Delhi which has the potential to not only alienate but also isolate people and especially the ones coming from far away regions with their unique life style, culture and social norms. Humayunpur has become a home way from home. It has been imagined and re-imagined, claimed and re-claimed, territorialised and re-territorialised since time immemorial, not just by one community but many. More recently it has been the northeastern inhabitants.


( Picture 4. Categorically Eat- Pham, a Manipuri restaurant. P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)



The migrant population that resides in the area has not only altered the economic tones of the space but brought forth an interesting transformation in the socio-cultural milieu. Since 1990s, with the flow of the northeastern people the area was gradually seen opening up many eateries serving authentic culinaries from the northeast.

Freedoms Corner remains to be one of the oldest eatery serving delicious indigenous food. Hornbill Restaurant and Cafe serving naga cuisine, Lha’s kitchen specialising in Nepalese and Bhutanese culinary, Yo-tibet with its illustrious decor, Categorically Eat- Pham as the name suggest, is a hub of Manipuri delicacies, Mizo Dinner provides traditional Mizo food, Kori’s Cafe and Restro specialises on Korean dishes and Mohinga, an eating joint serving food from Myanmar.

( Picture 5. Mohinga, P.C- Aditya Ranjan Pathak)





(Picture 6 . Kori’s Cafe cum Restaurant , P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)



(Picture 7 . Yo-Tibet Cafe and Restaurant , P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)






(Picture 8 . Urbanatic, fashion wear store, P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)




The market is scattered with numerable fascinating fashions stores exhibiting range of products from Thailand, Bangkok, Nepal and obviously Northeast. From footwear and bags to voguish clothes. It is literally a hub over anything and everything cool and funky. Runaway N.E, Exquisite, Selective collections, Urbanatic, Urbanatic Men’s wear, Vintage Violet, Wardrobe collections , Seasons, Hing and Hing are a few prominent ones that deserves attention.




(Picture 9. Selective Collections, Fashion store , P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak),



(Picture 10, Seasons, Wardrobe Collection and Hing and Hing, P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)



The urban village has some unique grocery shops storing ingredients to cook Northeastern, Tibetan, Chinese and Korean culinary. Tenzin Jampa Store, Khikhi Store and Northeast Fresh are one of those sorts. The famous Asha Tangkhul Store is a prominent store for the northeastern culinary necessity.






















(Picture 11. Asha Tangkhul Store , P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)


In the recent times, a range of beauty and tattoo parlours have unfurled in the urban village of Humayunpur. There are DVD shops playing end number of Korean songs and music from the rock and roll era of the 80s and 90s which can be overheard as one passes by.

What is also remarkable about this locality is its walls. They are adorned with tons of what is called graffiti art. The walls have become a space of cultural expressions of the



migrant population. On there other hand they have also creatively built a dialogue, a form of social-cultural engagement with the local jat population of the area.

(Picture 12. Northeast Fresh , P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)





(Picture 13. Rebel Ink Tattoo Parlour, P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)




(Picture 14. Rebel Graffiti Art on the walls of Humayunpur , P.C – Aditya Ranjan Pathak)





Of Cuisines and Culinaries

Humayunpur as I have mentioned above, has grown to be locality with numerous restaurants and cafe, some of which date back to even 90s and early 2000s. The culinary practice of the people are important to understand the socio-cultural dynamics of the space. Each restaurant has its own specialities and serves unique dishes from the Northeast and beyond. One can find Himalayan, Chinese and Tibetan dishes being served in these cafes and eating joints. The growth of these cafes and restaurants can be understood in parallel with the growth and expansion of the market and economy in Humayunpur in particular and Delhi in general.

1)     KORI’S


Kori’s, a Korean cafe cum restaurant in Humayunpur with flashy modern interiors is symbolic of how Korean culture be it in terms of music, food or clothing has become a part of the life of everyday Northeastern life. The cafe cum restaurant is owned by Sang Hoon Lee, who is a Seoul native and spends most of his time in Korea. The restaurant has

a bunch of active staff who works tirelessly. My interview of a Mani Prakash, a working personal from Koris is listed below.

Q. Would you mind telling me your name and what kind of work do you engage with in the restaurant?

Ans: Sure. I am Mani Prakash, I look after the managing, distribution and delivery. I mostly work as an all rounder and look after all most every aspect keeping in mind the requirements.

Q. How long have you been woking in this particular restaurant and what work did you engage in before you started working in Kori’s?

Ans: It has been almost 3 and a half years since I started working in Koris. Before this I assisted an advocate in the court in Delhi itself.

Q. How has your woking experiences in Humayunpur in general and Kori’s in particular been?

Ans: I have had a great time woking in Koris. The people here are full of warmth and very cordial. The manager and the owner are great people. My salary is deposited very timely every month in my account. Personally I have loved working in Humayunpur. I also have friends in the vicinity who are from the Northeastern States.

Q. When did Koris come up in Humayunpur? What are the special dishes served by Kori’s? What is Kori’s famous for?

Ans: Its been almost 5-6 years since Koris started. Koris serves end number of Korean dishes. The specials in our place are Kimbap, Bibimbap, Dosirak (Thali) and Korean herbal tea like Brown rice green tea, Corn silk tea, Buckwheat tea, Ginseng tea. Kimbap is korean rice rolled in seaweed similar to sushi, served with kimchi and soy sauce. Bibimbap on the other hand is rice with assorted vegetables with korean chill paste in a hot stone bowl.

Q. Do the Hindi speaking residents of Delhi visit Kori’s or is it only people from the


North-eastern states who prefer Korean cuisines?

Ans: Initially it was only people from the northeastern states, Nepali and Tibetans but over the years I can see the local residents of Delhi visiting the place. They have stared exploring and enjoying different dishes and cuisines. I think this what keeps the place alive. The engagement of different communities.

Q. What was the reason for your migration to Delhi and from where? Which community do you belong to? Where exactly in Delhi do you stay?

Ans: I am from Jharkhand and I hail from a Bihari community. I migrated to Delhi to make a living and for a better life and have been staying in Ayanagar in Chhattarpur, Delhi. I travel in a Motorbike everyday to work.

Q. How has your personal and professional experience in Humayunpur been?


Ans: Both my personal and professional experience in Humayunpur and Koris has been great. I love my workplace. The people out here are very pleasant and loving. I receive a lot of respect both from the other staff, manager and the customers as well. People from various communities and regions live and work together here. Thats the beauty of the place!

Q. Hailing from Jharkhand, and belonging to the Bihari community have you ever faced any discrimination in Humayunpur?

Ans: No I have never come across anything like that. Every one is very fun loving and inclusive here.

Q. How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the situation in your workplace?

Ans: Since the last couple of months the number of visitors have dropped because of Covid 19. The lockdown which was imposed had been a difficult time for us. But the numbers have picked up in post lockdown. I can see a lot of customers visiting now and

we are busy throughout the day. I am hoping that the numbers will rise in the times to come.



Asha’s Tangkhul Store in the main galli of Humayunpur is the one stop store for the North-eastern culinary requirements. It has been serving as the go to place for anything and everything one needs to cook any Northeastern dish. A store integral for everyday life. One step inside the store and I was welcomed with the aroma t of bamboo shoot, dry fish and pickles. The store displayed wooden shelves stacked with bamboo shoot, dried fish, chicken, pork, raja mirchi (ghost chillies) traditional and indigenous vegetables from the northeast, areca nuts etc. My interview with the owner of the store, Asha Tangkhul is inscribed below.

Q. Why and when did you move to Delhi? What made you choose Humayunpur as a place to reside?

Ans: Its been almost 18years since I moved to Delhi ad 18years since I lived in Humayunpur. I had begun working in the Ashoka Hotel. Humayunpur was near to my workplace and the place was really comforting and convenient. It was affordable and friendly, somewhat resembled my hometown.

Q. What was the reason for your migration to Delhi and from where? Which community do you belong to?

Ans: Like many others I too had moved to Delhi for a better life and job prospects. I wanted to be economically independent and thats what drove me to Delhi. I hail from the Ukhrul District of Manipur.

Q. Could you tell me about the store and your business? How and when did it all begun?

Ans: I have been a resident of Humayunpur since the last 18 years. I have always wanted to do something for the northeastern community people residing here considering the unique food patterns of the people. Therefore, after I left my job at the Ashoka Hotel in Delhi I came up with this idea of opening up a grocery store which would cater to the culinary needs of the residents. Initially, it was a small store selling rice, oil and pulses until 2011 when it finally got the shape of Asha’s Tangkhul Store with the support of family and friends. Infact my shop was the first of its kind which started selling northeastern food products in Humayunpur. It kind of brought forth a demand for north- eastern food products in the locality.

Q. What are the unique and special items available?


Ans: A range of food items area available here starting from the dry meat and fish to indigenous green vegetables from the northeastern part of India. Brinjal stems, Squash leaf, wild coriander, spring onions, raja mirchi, bamboo shoots etc are some when it comes to vegetables. There is dry fish, chicken and pork too for the meat lovers. On the other hand, there are variety of pickles.

Q. As a woman, how has your experience been in owning and running a business (store) in Humayunpur?

Ans: I had received support and help from my relatives and friends in the city. My close friend who resided with me in Humayunpur also supported me immensely. I had a pleasant experience working in this particular space. I love the people here and they love me back. I am happy that I can cater to their needs



Lha Kitchen, shop number 168 in Humayunpur is in the fore front when it comes to Nepali cuisine. The restaurant is adorned with framed photos of the Kanchunjunga, old Kalimpong road, view of old Darjeeling road and place station. One can also see a chart describing the ethnolinguistic group called ‘Thakalis’. The sitting arrangements remains to be authentic ad interesting as one could sit in the ground, which is the traditional eating posture as well as on modern chairs. My detailed interview of the Dicky Bhutia, the owner of Lha Kitchen is stated below.

Q. Why and when did you move to Delhi? What made you choose Humayunpur as place to reside over any other place?

Ans: So I did my graduation and post graduation from Delhi University. So I was in Delhi for quite sometime and was preparing for government examinations. I had studied business from Lady Shriram College and basically wanted to do something in business and I come from a hotel background from back home and so I wanted to start a small restaurant since hotel was not possible in Delhi as it is a lot of budget. Since I wanted to start something of my own I wanted to start small, where there is no risk involved hence I thought of starting a restaurant in a place where there is already culture growing like Humayunpur. So Humayunpur is a hub for all the northeasterns, Nepalese and Sikkimese people and so this is where I wanted to be, because I used to visit a lot during my college days and after it , so



that’s how I thought about it to be amazing as a market place because here is a mix of working people and students. Also a lot of people have started coming here because in the North there is Majnu ka Tilla and in the South there is Humayunpur. So, I started up here and it’s going great, it’s been two years, I started in 2018.

Q. What was your reason for migration to Delhi and from where? Which community do you belong to?

Ans: I migrated to Delhi for education and I was staying nearby my college( LSR), in Lajpat Nagar quite a few years, an during my coaching and my masters I was staying in North, so the main reason why I migrated to Delhi was to study and I am that third generation of my family who came to Delhi to study. Also because there is a lot of opportunity here in Delhi which is greater than what is back home in Northeast. Actually I come from Kalimpong in West Bengal, which is a small town and that is why the opportunities here are better and one can put their hand onto many things.




Q. Since when are you working in the particular place? Tell me about your experiences of running a shop/restaurant (Lha Kitchen) in Humayunpur? Why did you choose Humayunpur specifically?

Ans: We are two partners, me and my fiancé who back then was my boyfriend, we started this restaurant together. We are both Tibetans and we decided to start this venture together.

Q. What is unique about the restaurant? What are the specialities?



Ans: Our concept was to get the taste of the Himalayas to Humayunpur and Delhi. So my favourite from the menu is the Hot Pot, so many people haven’t tried it yet- the schwezan Hotpot, it comes from the Chinese section and is definitely a must try. We also have a lot of Momo varieties- Thai momos, one of our specialities is Kothe momos. And the Thaalis, you must definitely try the thaalis. Also there are not many people who explore the Bhutanese style of our cuisine, we have a lot of Bhutanese dishes as well, Emadatsi and Koadatsi- which is common in a lot of Himalayan restaurants but what is not common is the Langshapa and Bhakshapa. There are a few dishes which I have put from my own house and what we used to make at our family functions. Those are on our special menu.

Q. How has your experience been being an owner of a restaurant and working here?


Tell me about some aspects which you like when it comes to the locality of Humayunpur? As a woman, how has it been?

Ans: Gender wise has been really difficult, because my partner, he is the silent one so everything from the construction to framing the menu, training the staff is what I do. So I am a food curator and everything here, so when I started it was really difficult to be the only women and deal with the carpenter, the butchers, the vegetable suppliers because the way they talk to a women is very derogatory as compared to the way they talk to a man. It is because they have always been dealing with men and then a women takes over, even for chefs we have – there are so many chefs who have left telling that I don’t want to work under a women which was shocking for me as well as I haven’t come across similar behaviour earlier, even back home or while studying. In Kalimpong , men and women are treated as equals and we don’t have these kind of problems back there. Even the local



people are not that friendly. The local people here are the jaat people and the Haryanvi’s  who live here and the landlords, the rentals are extremely high for this location and the way they speak is often intolerable. I don’t know if they are ignorant or they want to be this dominant. It is not a really good scenario for a women but it is improving with time. They have no choice but to slowly accept a woman taking charge.

Q. Have your received any kind of help from the government?



Ans: We have a local MCDA person living here with us and they have taken a lot of steps in cleaning up the place,in making the roads well, in tying up the loose light wires that existed earlier, and have also improved the drainage system here. The local government is very helpful, also maybe because they have a family business here. This guy called Ashish Phogat and his wife, both are very helpful and they have done a lot for this place. They have also made a yulu bike stand here which is very convenient for all the customers coming here from the metro and nearby areas and that’s why we get a lot of yulu customers here.

Q. Delhi people and their response to Humayunpur and food there?

Ans: The Delhi people don’t explore these cuisines, even my neighbour or my landlord wouldn’t try out these food dishes and cuisines. But definitely people from areas like green park, Lajpat nagar, and even Faridabad , and Sikh community from Arjun nagar do come. It depends on the mentality, whether or not you want to explore because some people address northeastern food as very stinky food, and they do not want to come to this place. There is still that stigma as shown in that movie Axone, so that still exists. I think the ones that come are those who have studied in DU and college and have friends who have suggested them northeastern food, and even migrants who are working here.



Q. Experience of staying in Humayunpur personally



Ans: Personally this is a place where we get everything, the food we eat and the markets are nearby and hence it is a very convenient place but in terms of rentals, the prices are very high like 50,000 for 1+1 is very high, it’s bizarre until you are earning hefty. And even if you are earning heavily, even then you wouldn’t want to pay so much and enter through gallis. I wouldn’t stay here if I didn’t own a restaurant and was working somewhere else. People stay here because you get all the northeast food, vegetables, etc. Earlier it was cheaper but now it has become very expensive and they increase 10% percent every year.

Q. Cultural intermingling and cohabitation question



Ans: It is definitely a cohabiting space. The intermingling is very peaceful and its safe. You can walk down the road at 3am and nobody would say anything. Even for women its safe here, they might talk to women in a bad way but wouldn’t eve tease you or harm you, even if its 3am. I close the restaurant at 1am and walk home. It’s a safe space and not the usual Delhi scenario. The landlords are building up the residential community and hence they respect everyone, so it’s kind of safer.

Q. Do you like the space and personal attachment, what makes its convenient?



Ans: The personal attachment is the restaurant, that is the reason I shifted and the convenient thing is that everyone’s here, the communities from northeast. Due to that the staple food is kind of the same for everyone and thus the vegetables and the ingredients are so easily available, which makes it’s a homely space and you don’t feel like leaving it. So that is the thing that keeps me back here in Humayunpur

Q. What about your staff?



Ans: My kitchen staff is completely from West Bengal and Nepal, because I think that is where the authenticity comes from. I have sourced them from home and I got them personally here, and they have been with me for good 2 years now. The service staff, the stewards are from different places, UP , Bihar , two of them from the hills back home.

Q. What is the nearest market that sustains your restaurant and even personally?



Ans: Its about 2kms from here and I think it is the best market here. We source everything from there, be it home or restaurant, I get everything from there. Our vegetable supplier is a resident of Humayunpur and he sources it for us.

Q. Has living in Delhi and residing in Humayunpur changed your lifestyle and everyday life? If yes, please explain how?

Ans: When I came to Delhi I was a book worm kind of a kid who wanted to only study, but coming to Delhi has changed me in a way that it has made me street smart. The kind of people you meet here teaches you a lot, and moulds you well to become a street smart. Moreover Delhi University is one of the best places for education. Most of my friends who studied here in Delhi have come off well.

Q. Aspects of Humayunpur you like?



Ans: The best part about Humayunpur is its diversity. I think people from every community can come here and live, there is no judgment. It is safe, which is the best part. So anyone can adjust here easily. Whereas in other areas there is no diversity, for instance you go



somewhere and they point out the northeastern, call them names and that kind of thing is not here. The comfort level is very good, and you can wear everything here, there is no staring.

Freedom Corner is one of the oldest restaurant in Humayunpur. It currently serves Tibetan, Chinese and Gorkhali dishes. My interview with Deepak Mahalwal, the owner of Freedoms Corner is listed below.





Q. How did the idea of ‘Freedom Corner’ come forth?


Ans: It was in the early 2000s in a discussion with two of my friends Tashik and Sonam that the concept of an eating joint called Freedoms Corner came up. They had suggested me the name – Freedoms Corner. The idea was to start something with Chinese cuisine but it was only after delving in depth that I ventured to include regional cuisines from the northeast, keeping in the mind Humayunpur. Eventually, a Himalayan cuisine was initiated and have been going on since.

Q. What was the reason for choosing Humayunpur and not any other place in Delhi?

Ans: Freedoms Corner was the first restaurant of its kind which came up in the vicinity of Humayunpur, serving Chinese, northeastern and Himalayan food. I have been a resident of Humayunpur, and have grown up in the neighbourhood. Three generations of my family have lived here. During 2000s I could observe the transformation that started happening in humayunpur. Development seeped in the space and changed the dynamics. Migration from various parts of the country and specifically from the northeast have also transformed the demography. I had therefore wanted to capitalise on the situation and Freedoms Corner is the result.

Q. What are the special items served in your restaurant ?

Ans: We have been the first to introduce Tibetan cuisine in South Delhi. Items like Chicken Shabta, Pork Shabta and Mutton Shabta have remained favourite of people. Ting-mo, Taipo and Shabaleys are also sought after. Our gorkhali thalis are also very famous.





Q. Were the the residents in Delhi and the North Indian population receptive of such restaurants with such different food items?

Ans: Since 2012 with the rise in cultural and social intermingling, the north indian population have gradually started exploring different cuisines and dishes. This can be well observed in Freedoms Corner as well as in other restaurants in Humayunpur. Infact in the last couple of years we have had more north indian and south indian visitors. Mostly college students, who want to explore new dishes. People have now started exploring different cuisines.

Q. You have been a local resident of Humayunpur village. Have you seen the space undergone change over the years?

Ans: Since the 2000 Humayunpur has seen immense transformation. New shops and stores have opened up, markets have expanded and development has seeped in. The place has extensively undergone a lot of change both physically and culturally. People have settled here for work and for studies. People from northeastern India find it really convenient and comfortable here. The demography too has changed over time.



Of Students and Humayunpur


  • Abhijit Phukan, hailing from Assam, a former student at the University of Delhi, who currently has been learning coding and computer applications in Delhi has spent considerable time in Humayunpur. He is currently residing in the same I interview him to know about his experiences in Humayunpur.



Q. Why and when did you move to Delhi? What made you choose Humayunpur as place to reside over any other place?


Ans: I came to Delhi in 2012 for my education , I did my bachelors in Political Science from Delhi University and I spent most of my time in the north campus, in Vijay Nagar and moved to Safdarjung area ( Humayunpur) only last year. I moved because everything here is convenient for me, the place, the environment.


Q.What has your experience in Delhi and Humayunpur been like? Has it transformed you as an individual?


Ans: In north campus, by the end just before I shifted here, there was no one there and my life had become boring. After shifting to Humayunpur, I have been socialising more , all my friends are over here. So it is a better experience for me over here. There has been a transformation for sure, my lifestyle is quite better over here.


Q. As a student, what is it like to stay in Humayunpur? Is it a convenient place to stay?


Ans: It is convenient, the people over here, most of my friends stay over here and plus the food. Northeastern food is available in variety here. The rent in comparison to north campus is the same but the houses are the same.As a student too it is pretty convenient here, the metro being nearby and most of the south campus colleges are nearby and for a student its a great place if you know your limits.



Q. What are the favourite restaurants of Humayunpur and what are the favourite dishes/ food items? What is your favourite genre when it comes to music?


Ans: I don’t have a favourite restaurant but whenever I don’t feel like cooking I go out and eat northeastern thaalis.


Q. What are the festivals that people of Humayunpur celebrate?



Ans: The people of Humayunpur celebrate all the festivals- Holi, Diwali. Even Christmas is celebrated pretty nicely here.


Q. What is the nearest market for shopping and sustenance?


Ans: The green park market is nearby and even Sarojini is nearby. Even Humayunpur has many shops for clothes but we don’t buy here very often. As for daily items of sustenance we have a Nine eleven nearby and we buy our daily needed items from there




Q. What are the prominent changes you have seen in Humayunpur in during your staying years?

Ans: There are always new restaurants and new clothes shops opening here.



Q. How do people react when you tell them that you live in Humayunpur?



Ans: I haven’t really got much reactions. Most people even if they do not know Humayunpur, they know Safdarjung Enclave. They sometimes ask where is Humayunpur, and I tell them it is in Safdarjung.


Q. How are the local people of Humayunpur, the landlords?


Ans: The people I have interacted with in the past one year, I haven’t come across anyone who is bad and didn’t have a bad experience with anyone as such. They have all been nice and sweet.


  • Rishiraj Borpujari, from the city of Guwahati in Assam and an alumni of the university of Delhi has also been a resident in the urban village of Humayunpur. He is currently living in the same area. I interview him about his experiences and the various aspects the


Q. Why and when did you move to Delhi ? What made you choose Humayunpur as a place to stay over any other place?


Ans: I moved to Delhi in the year 2012 mainly to complete my higher education and I have completed both my bachelors and masters from Delhi University and I am currently doing a web designing course. I have stayed at a lot of places before moving to Humayunpur last year mainly because its pretty near to the institute I am currently studying at.



Q. How has your experience in Delhi generally and Humayunpur particularly been like? Has it transformed you as an individual ?


Ans: Delhi has been a pretty good for me. Everything is great except the weather in summers. Its almost unbearable. And yeah I can say it has transformed me due to the fact living away from home has taught me to be more responsible and make better decisions in day to day life scenarios.



Q. As a student what is it like to stay in Humayunpur? Is it a convenient place to stay?


Ans: Humayunpur is a pretty convenient to live as a student as lots of south campus students stay here and even the metro station is just 5 mins away by auto.



Q. What are your favourite spots in Humayunpur?


Ans: My personal favourite spot is the deer park which is just 5 mins on foot from Humayunpur. I go there to take a walk ,sometimes walk my friends dog and yeah also to play badminton in the evenings.



Q. What are your favourite restaurants? What are the dishes you prefer?


Ans: My personal favourite ones are Cultured and Categorial Eat-Pham in Humayunpur . The former for its ambience, great coffee and the food too especially when I want to chill out in the evenings and the latter for its thalis and buffet if im feeling really hungry.



Q. What is the rent like in Humayunpur? Are the landlords interfering?



Ans: The rent mostly starts at around 6k for a single room upto 30k for a 3bhk flat. The landlords are a mixed bag. Some places have landlords who don’t care about the tenants but some are really pesky and will complain at the slight disturbance.



Q. Do you cook at your place? If you do, what are the food items you cook?


Ans: Yes I do cook at my place mostly whatever we eat back home home like rice, dal, meats, veggies. Pretty much everyday breakfast , lunch and dinner .



Q. Whats the closest market that helps in sustenance?


Ans: The market is literally at the hub of Humayunpur so pretty much everything from food to household items are easily available here.



Q. When it comes to co-habitation between the north-eastern population and the local jat population, has it been peaceful or are there some complexities?


Ans: It is pretty peaceful at the most. There isn’t any conflict between the two as far as I’ve seen and the people seem to co exist peacefully .

Glancing at Humayunpur (More Pictures)



The migrant population that resides in the area has not only altered the economic tones of the space but brought forth an interesting transformation in the socio-cultural milieu. Since 1990s, with the flow of the northeastern people the area was gradually seen opening up many eateries serving authentic culinaries from the northeast.

Freedoms Corner remains to be one of the oldest eatery serving delicious indigenous food. Hornbill Restaurant and Cafe serving naga cuisine, Lha’s kitchen specialising in Nepalese and Bhutanese culinary, Yo-tibet with its illustrious decor, Categorically Eat- Pham as the name suggest, is a hub of Manipuri delicacies, Mizo Dinner provides traditional Mizo food, Kori’s Cafe and Restro specialises on Korean dishes and Mohinga, an eating joint serving food from Myanmar.


The urban village has some unique grocery shops storing ingredients to cook Northeastern, Tibetan, Chinese and Korean culinary. Tenzin Jampa Store, Khikhi Store and Northeast Fresh are one of those sorts. The famous Asha Tangkhul Store is a prominent store for the northeastern culinary necessity.