Big B’s House in Delhi: Sopaan, the Hub of Poetry and Debates
Gulmohar Park residents recall days spent at Sopaan, where the Bachchans used to live.
Contrary to the larger-than-life status that Prateeksha and Jalsa enjoy in Mumbai, Sopaan is the little known abode of Amitabh Bachchan in South Delhi’s posh Gulmohar Park. It is special for the Bachchans as it is believed to be their first house. Sopaan, the beautiful abode of Teji Bachchan and her husband Harivansh Rai Bachchan, is an elegant double-storied house.
When Poems Used to Echo at Sopaan
Sopaan has been a witness to dozens of lively poetry sessions and vibrant debates, as long as Harivansh Rai lived there till 1980. Bachchan ji too used to recite his famous poems during those sessions. Doyens of Hindi literature like Vishnu Prabhakar, Ramanath Awasthi, Dr Maheep Singh, Dr Rajindra Awasthi, Kusum Ansal, Dr Narendra Mohan and many more were regular participants at these literary sessions.
Poets, writers, intellectuals and teachers attended those debates in large numbers.
Teji ji was a great host. She always ensured that guests enjoyed good snacks and food too, after thoughtful debates and Kavitapaath.Dr Pratap Sehgal, Hindi Department, Delhi University
Joining the Gulmohar Park Society
Teji, a freelance journalist, became a member of the Gulmohar Park housing Society, even though it was meant for working journalists. There were not many takers for this far-flung area in those days.
Many old-timers at in Gulmohar Park still recall the time when Harivansh Rai and Teji used to stay there like any other resident.
When Gulmohar Park and Sopaan were coming up in the early 1970s, Amitabh Bachchan was not a star. The Bachchans belonged to upper middle class family with strong political connections. Harivansh Rai and Teji used to visit the area very often to see the progress of the construction of their house.
Dr Govind Vyas, Secretary of Delhi-based Hindi Bhawan, and neighbour of the Bachchan family in Gulmohar Park, recalls:
Bachchan ji used to visit our home to meet my father and journalist, Gopal Prasad Vyas often. And then they would talk about everything under the sun.
‘Don’ Changes the Destiny of Bachchans
Harivanshi Rai Bachchan and Teji left Sopaan for Mumbai after the stunning success of Don in 1979, as Amitabh Bachchan wanted to take care of his ageing parents. It is a different matter that both used to visit Delhi often, stayed at their home, and invited friends over for poetry and discussions.
While they wanted to stay back in Delhi, it was Amitabh who wanted his parents to shift their base. But after the couple moved to Mumbai, they ensured that the family continued to celebrate Diwali at Sopaan.
Diwali was always a happy time as both Amitabh and his young brother Ajitabh, along with their families, would come over to celebrate the festival of light. “Once, while lighting Anaar outside Sopaan, Amitabh Bachchan got injured,” recalls poet and teacher Dr Subhash Vashisht, who also lives in Gulmohar Park.
Sharing an interesting incident, Dr Subhash Vashisht shared how a security guard used to follow the Bachchan couple during their morning and evening strolls. When somebody asked them the reason, Harivansh Rai replied: “Munna [Amitabh] fears that his parents may be kidnapped.”
Gulmohar Park, established by a group of journalists, has witnessed several changes over the years. Today, it is home to top-notch businessmen, journalists, and senior lawyers.
Sopaan: The House with Many Steps
Sopaan is definitely close to Amitabh Bachchan’s heart. Once, in an interview, Amitabh Bachchan fondly remembered the study room at Sopaan:
I used to sit on my father’s desk in Delhi, surrounded by his books. From here he wrote the last chapter of his autobiography and many other poems.
In his blog post, dated 7 March 2016, Amitabh Bachchan elaborated his thoughts on Sopaan: “The house Sopaan, which means staircase, was built when my father Harivansh Rai Bachchan retired from Government service and from the Rajya Sabha. When my father saw the house, the first thing he noticed about it was that it had an incredible amount of steps on the stairs that covered the entire house. Hence, he named it Sopaan”.
Hub of Activity
It was at Sopaan that Amitabh Bachchan met with media personnel after he quit the Lok Sabha in 1987.
Evening News (now defunct evening paper from the Hindustan Times group) editor BM Sinha and I met Amitabh Bachchan at Sopaan after he had resigned from the Parliament. All three of us used to talk for hours about various controversies, which forced him to resign after the Indian Express had published some documents. He would send his car to pick us up from the Hindustan Times office.Amitabh Shrivasta, former Political Editor, The Evening News
“It was very difficult to meet Harivansh Rai or Teji ji during those days as their phone number was not there in the Delhi telephone directory,” Shrivasta recalls.
Amitabh Bachchan only visits Sopaan occasionally, while Jaya Bachchan visits often, neighbours claim. But the house, that has played a huge role in the life of the Bachchans, remains a Gulmohar Park landmark.
(The writer is former Editor, Somaiya Publications. He can be reached @VivekShukla108. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. )
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