Photo Essay – The Garden Lovers of Delhi
Love birds have favrouite gardens for discrete dating.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Public parks in Delhi have always doubled up as private spaces for young romantic couples who, due to various reasons, cannot seek the joys of physical intimacy in any other place. These gardens have lately acquired individual flavours too.
The rugged landscape of Buddha Jayanti Park, near Dhaula Kuan in center Delhi, is for the adventurous and daring. The hip Lodhi Garden, thanks to its numerous walkers, suits those who prefer safety in crowd. Nehru Park, near the Prime Minister’s residence, is popular among gay people. In pre-Metro days, Central Park, at Connaught Place, was a haunt for sex workers. It’s a Happy Family zone now.
Prachi and Mukul (both were reluctant to give their last names) often spend afternoons at Lodhi Garden. Once described by Time magazine as Asia’s best urban oasis, Lodhi Garden holds no charm for these love birds from Uttam Nagar. “We don’t come to gaze at tombs and trees,” says 19-year-old Prachi. She met 23-year-old Mukul at a computer institute in Kirti Nagar, fell in love, and then wondered where to get cozy. West Delhi, where the home is, was out of the question. Central Park? No bushes. Buddha Park? Too dangerous (goonda elements etc.). Millennium Park? Too far. Lodhi Garden? Yes!
“Lodhi Garden is healthy,” says Mukul. “No one asks what are you doing and why are you doing it.” The couple tried Buddha Park last year but were harassed for money by a eunuch (he threatened to show it all) and shortly afterwards by a bored cop (he threatened to dial “Mummy Papa”).
However, that sort of harassment hasn’t stopped Buddha Park from acquiring a ‘fast’ reputation. The kissing and groping in Lodhi is like a child’s play to the more adult stuff going on here. The stories about eve teasing too haven’t added to its reputation.
Perhaps one place in Delhi where eves are perfectly safe is Nehru Park, described in a google search as “the Grande Dame of all gay cruising places in the capital.” Evenings there usually see fashion designers, foreign diplomats, and lonely homosexuals eyeing each other discretely.
Discretion is the very thing that straight lovers could learn from their gay counterparts. “I feel scared in my evening walks not knowing when I would stumble into these ladka-ladkis,” says a senior bureaucrat living in a bungalow just across the road from Lodhi Garden. “Their activities are just not a part of our culture,” she says.
Sharing beautiful moments, Lodhi Garden
No bushes here, Central Park
No time for tombs, Lodhi Garden
Come closer, Lodhi Garden
I can’t love without you, Purana Quila Lawn
There are problems, Lodhi Garden
Close your eyes, Buddha Jayanti Park
Love me, kiss me, Buddha Garden
No one’s watching, Lodhi Garden
Love conquers all fear, Lodhi Garden
Sweet is your kiss, Lodhi Garden
Time out, Lodhi Garden
Sightseeing, Lodhi Garden
Sealed with a kiss, Lodhi Garden
Someone’s lonely too, Lodhi Garden
It’s a beautiful world, Lodhi Garden