City Obituary – A Leafless Tree, Lodhi Road
On the death of a dead tree.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The tree was dead and yet full of life. For years it stood like a giant on Lodhi Road’s divider. In the evening, birds would settle on every inch of its leafless branches. The naked tree would then seem to spring back into life with what appeared to be black leaves, stirring even in the absence of breeze (just the birds flapping their wings).
Actually, the tree was so much a part of the place that it became as customary to see it as sun and moon. You would notice its extraordinary beauty only if you made an effort. In fact, a young artist in Bombay included that tree in his panoramic portrait of Delhi.
And then one day the tree wasn’t there.
The Delhi Walla discovered its absence just a few days before the city went into lockdown mode, due to the coronavirus pandemic. A nearby chai stall owner said that the authorities chopped off the dead tree because they feared it had grown weak and would end up falling down on the road.
Lodhi Road extends all the way from Safdarjung’s Tomb to Humayun’s Tomb. The tree’s exact location was close to the latter. It faced Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. The adjacent pavement is home to many rickshaw pullers and fakirs. One such fakir lived right under the tree. His roof consisted of a plastic awning tied about the tree’s trunk. At night, his dwelling would glow with the light of the makeshift stove in which he would cook his dinner.
The fakir’s home disappeared with the tree.
At night, the birds would leave and the bare branches and twigs would look like the map of an abandoned metropolis.
Not many noticed the passing away of this landmark. Nobody is missing it. So much else is happening.
One day in the near future, when this ongoing nightmare ends, it will be time to make a proper farewell to the tree. And then you can head to the spot where existed this graceful giant, that gave no shade and yet was so sheltering.
Ps: The pictures of the tree were taken over the course of several seasons.
See you, dear tree