Building an Imperial tank factory in India – CNN

Written by By Laura Quirk, CNN London, with contributions from Anjan Sundaram

When examining the past, it seems essential to find lessons in its greatest traumas. On a recent visit to Delhi’s Karol Bagh, we learned that this ancient British tank builder might as well have been looking at the present.

Instead of the long-standard bronze heads — a very modern detail — around the inside of the tanks in this abandoned building, all four exhibited are traditional bronze horses.

At one end of the shop is a bar, though there is no beer, whisky or wine, with old-fashioned cash till charges. At the other end, plastic ones. Now the world does not need their expertise in transformational bolt or turn, we know how to do that ourselves.

Why do so many people go to these shops, these manufacturers? Partly because of the impeccable quality and wood as well as the fact that ancient craft is familiar territory to them. Still, there are the commercial reasons — classic East European and Ottoman design — that encourage further interest.

Karol Bagh Tankmakers (Karol Bagh Tankmakers/Facebook)

Remember: we have just visited a large tank building that endured incredible destruction. The tank that destroyed this building came in 1925. The flying bomb didn’t reduce the buildings around it; it came down within the building and just missed the wooden turntable — a turntable everyone was reminded of when they were shown the video.

What was supposed to be a public space became an Israeli bombing range. That tank itself, turned out to be rather sensitive, and was later made into a hospital stretcher.

The damage to Karol Bagh tankmakers is simply an image of what has been done, not that of what was achieved. Yet, though England might continue to struggle with contemporary relevance, there are parts of it that retain a sense of its history.

And when the local youngsters and architects visit, they see a small shop built by the evocatively named “Lady Tank.”

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A plaque to her is kept in the shop door, along with a lipstick case and the Romanian musical notes that used to fill the earphones of the customers (also now long gone).

We have long enjoyed the machine shop. Inside, even the fittings are beautiful. We managed to salvage some used metal spools and metal sheets and stretched the frame to make a nice machine that’s now the best-selling machine in the shop.

Next time, you visit, rather than buy horses, you might try a metal disc, the same as it was made for knocking up cavalry carriages.

Q: Why is this so special?

Anjan Sundaram: I have known about Mumbai for a long time now and I’ve come out here a few times. Maybe it’s because, as we know, Mumbai is one of the reasons the man himself survived this disaster. My grandfather is still alive, I took his photographs and archives. I can see a little part of him here, waiting for the time when the carriages would be broken down and he would show me where he placed the tools.

Q: What do you enjoy?

A: It’s unusual to see an old shop under any circumstance. I can see this niche area has been protected because it’s very unusual to go around and see it. The shop is in a beautiful location. There’s so much going on.

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