City Secret – DDA Park, Opposite Purana Quila
A mystery best left unsolved.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There are many buts about this place. It is thick with woods and grass, but the padding is too thin to screen off the traffic noise (Mathura Road is next door). It is opposite the touristy Purana Qila, but rarely a tourist comes here. It has hillocks, tombs and a ruin, but the entire area is so small that you could cover it in ten minutes.
The signboard outside calls this place a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) Park, but its character is too elusive for such an honour.
The imperfections begin from the start. No entrance gate. You have to jump over a hedge. Inside – trees, bushes, but no flowers, no lovers. The grounds are wrapped up with overgrown grass, but you would soon notice a narrow seemingly well-trodden path snaking through the terrain.
Looking around, it all seems untamed, but does not feel wild. Thanks to the sound of honking cars, this place can never be romanticised as one of those calm islands trapped amidst a stormy sea (think Lodhi Garden!).
Yet, it is so forest-ey. To your right: a hillock. Climb over the rocks: the top surrounded on all sides by giant Neem trees. Their branches bending down to three tombs; all draped with colourful chaadars. One tomb is said to belong to some Peer Saheb, a Sufi saint.
Who was this man? Why was he buried here?
While struggling with such questions, you might get distracted by the ruin, a few steps away, at the ‘far’ end of the park. Who built it? And why? And when? When I walked in there, three government clerks were playing cards under its chhatri. They had no idea about its history.
But is it necessary to seek enquiries, always?
One way to simplify a city is to strip it off its mysteries, to decode its secrets, to break it into chunks of information, to make it guidebook worthy. It is considered civilised to give a landmark a date, a narrative, a purpose. So, in a city having no ambiguities, a garden will always be quiet, a tomb will always belong to a saint, a wreckage will always own a history.
There is no patience with incomplete details.
But that precisely is the attraction of this DDA Park. It is right here, yet hidden in unknowns; its beauty as flawed as this city. Its serenity, sure, is corrupted, but that is because the serenity here is not artificially manufactured as in, say, Buddha Garden. It is an urban oasis, but it does not bar the urbanity’s less pretty intrusions. The smoggy Mathura Road never leave the senses completely. There even lurks a nervous thrill of bumping into an ‘anti-social’ element.
In a way, this DDA Park encapsulates Delhi’s essence – ruins, trees, tombs and men striking an unsatisfactory compromise with the Capital’s difficult life.
You must come here, but will you?
Where Just opposite Purana Qila, next to the cantonment