City Walk – Defence Colony Bylanes, South Delhi
A stroll into a well-heeled neighborhood.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Some localities boldly exhibit their life out into their bylanes, like the Old Gupta Colony in north Delhi. There you see ladies chatting on the street, grocers gossiping with barbers, kids on bicycles, and all sorts of domestic sounds streaming out from windows.
Defence Colony in south Delhi is less showy. God knows it must have its share of boisterous life but that strictly stays within its bungalows and apartments—each as impenetrable as a citadel. A purposeless walk through DefCol, however, reveals its serene beauty, including cats slinking behind hooded cars and dogs snoozing under the guard cabins.
Start the walk from the traffic circle tucked next to the DefCol Market. Get into Chetak Vithi Road that flanks Gurudwara Singh Sabha. The way ahead is spread out like one of those so-called Thandi Sadak in Himalayan hill stations—empty, quite and very green. But please, don’t follow any particular itinerary. Sometimes do try to free yourself from the mobile-driven GPS way of life. Just lose youself. Keep straying through DefCol’s maze of bylanes bordered with bougainvilleas and trees of various kinds. Every other house here inadvertently exposes its character, through a balcony or a window, in the form of an embarrassingly extravagant chandelier, or an elegant flight of staircase, or a book-covered wall. A window in one home reveals a black-and-white poster of the iconic Madhubala.
Not all DefCol dwellers have the luxury of privacy. Not its security guards, for sure. Almost every gated house has its uniformed man perched in a cabin.
Seeking directions for a fictitious house number is the ideal way to break the ice with these guards. One such man turned out to be so helpful that he got up from a card game he was playing with a colleague and explained in a most detailed manner with much flailing of arms, “Go straight, turn right and the first kothi after…” Turned out it was a real address.
No matter where the lanes take you to, end the walk on the quiet Chetna Marg, that runs beside a park. It’s an exceptionally hushed path, at least during this late afternoon hour. A rickshaw is parked under a tree. The puller is sleeping on the passenger’s seat (see second photo below). With his cracked feet dangling down from the rickshaw, the man’s looking as serene, contended and remote as a DefCol home.
Trekking in DefCol