Photo Essay – Tourists in Their Own City, Agrasen ki Baoli
Discovering a monument.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Are there people who find monuments boring?
One winter afternoon The Delhi Walla took a group of four – three women and a man – to the rarely visited Agrasen ki Baoli, a 14th century step-well in Hailey Road, near the central commercial district of Connaught Place. These Delhiwallas hadn’t visited the monument before. They rarely visit monuments. (I have written about the baoli here.)
While entering, I said, “Close your eyes.” One by one, they stepped in. On opening the eyes, each exclaimed:
Holding a leather-bound business diary, a lone man was watching the ruin. Dressed like a business executive, he seemed to have come from a nearby office tower. Unnerved by our noise, he immediately left.
Like the city’s other ancient step-wells, Agrasen ki Baoli is dry. It has steep stone steps descending into the well’s bottom. The walls on both sides have niches and galleries. Since the baoli looks to the high-rises of Connaught Place, the contrast of the Downward Past and the Upward Present always excites the senses. It did the same to these four people, too.
They ran down the stairs, cooed at the pigeons, discovered hidden passages, peered into the pit and joked about ghosts and spirits. One woman slipped. She said, “No, I don’t want to die in a monument.” The other said mischievously, “Let’s push her.”
Landing at a lower level, the man pointed out two pigeons perched together in an alcove. At this depth, the sunlight had lost its intensity. The four visitors were overwhelmed.
Climbing the stairs, I told the group that not so long ago the baoli was filled with filthy water in which depressed people would jump to their death. “Oh God,” one woman said. The man laughed nervously. Reaching the ground level, they turned to give a final look. The steps of the baoli and the high-rises of Connaught Place presented a rare sight: the 14th century had aligned itself perpendicularly with the 21st century. Moved by the view, the four held each other. A few moments passed. Then they left.
Where Hailey Road, near KG Marg, Connaught Place Time 9am-5pm Nearest Metro Station Barakhamba
On the way to Agrasen ki Baoli
Alone he stood… till we came
Isn’t it amazing?
Tourists in their own city
The Delhi that not many know
We’ll be back