City Walk, Barakhamba, Central Delhi
The 5 am stroll.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This early morning stroll is as illusory as a morning dream.
At 5am the walk along central Delhi’s Barakhamba Road seems unreal. Stretching from Pushkin’s statue in Mandi House to Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s bust at the Barakhamba traffic light, the dense foliage of surrounding trees claims the Russian writer as their own.
From certain angles it looks as though Pushkin’s tall statue is nothing more than the remains of an old city turned to ruins—lost to the jungle.
Now, cross the road to the residence of the Nepalese ambassador, which amounts to one of the most distinctive mansions in this neck of the city. It looks even more regal than the famous Narayanhiti Palace of the erstwhile Nepalese royals in Kathmandu.
At this icy pre-dawn hour the residence is swathed in a haunting quietude. One of the guards is sitting in front of an electric heater staring at his cellphone. The side-lane ahead is entangled in the shadows of tree leaves. The walk goes past an apartment complex where an upper floor window is aglow with a huge chandelier. And then, the Iranian Embassy looms like a birthday cake consisting of mosaic tiles.
There’s no one on the lane but suddenly a man appears on a bicycle, pedaling away wordlessly.
Next follows a series of old bungalows with wild gardens and rickety gates. No signs of life in them but each ‘bangla’ is looking like a possessive custodian of family histories. The lane concludes at the palatial Pataudi House, now housing an orphanage.
Finally, you reach at the traffic light with Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s bust perched on a pedestal. His eyes are wide open.