South of the city.
[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi; pictures by Pradip Krishen and Mayank Austen Soofi]
No soul in sight, the wall crisscrosses through what seems like a jungle. The Delhi Walla is standing at the edge of a cliff, looking down at what used to be a stone mine. The wall is emerging from a cluster of trees, running along a couple of hundred metres, and disappearing into trees. “It separates Delhi from the state of Haryana,” says Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi. “It was probably built by mine owners to mark the boundary since they have to pay royalties to both states.” Mr Krishen is leading a group of seven people for an early morning excursion into the plant life of this stone quarry, about a 30-minute drive from the city’s heart.
Adjacent to the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway, south of the city, the mine was excavated for Badarpur sand and Delhi quartzite.For centuries, the quartzite of the Aravallis has been quarried to build the hundreds of monuments of Delhi.
Heading towards the wall, the group walks down a slope on which trucks once carried stones from the mine. The ground is red with Badarpur sand.
The mine had attracted labourers from Rajasthan. Holes were drilled in the rocks and dynamite placed inside them. The blast would break rocks into stones of different sizes, which were later crushed.
Making his way through the thorny vines of vilayati keekar, Mr Krishen points to the slender leafless stems of tamarix. A tree rare in Delhi, it blooms in the rainy season with little pink flowers.“This is a special ecosystem,” says Mr Krishen. “The soil here is very porous and does not retain water, so only a narrow band of plants survives.”
From across the wall – we are on its Haryana side – a cicada is sounding. Its monotonous sound is indifferent to our intrusion. A minute later, after crossing into Delhi, we clamber down a flat ground, cracked with dry earth. A little further, up on a slope, is a sand cave. It houses a small community of rhesus macaques, along with a few birds and insects. “This is like a micro habitat zone,” says Mr Krishen.
Soon we return. Retracing our steps, crossing the wall, climbing the slope and nearing ‘ground level’, we hear the sound of the highway traffic. It is as if we have just woken up.
If you want to join Pradip Krishen in his weekend trips to ‘green’ regions in and around Delhi, write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where Gurgaon-Faridabad Road, near Chattarpur Best time Early morning
Into the wild (Pradip Krishen with designer Marina Bang)
Wide angle view (Time Out Delhi editor Raghu Karnad)
Delhi is on the other side
Entering into Delhi
Pick the rocks, build your home
Cracked earth and a white flower
Deeper in the wild
The sand cave
Up the slope
Monkey in the cave (photo by Pradip Krishen)
Can you hear me? (photo by Pardip Krishen)
Civilization (photo by Pradip Krishen)
[The first picture, at the top of the page, is also by Pradip Krishen]