City Hangout – Bat Island, Deer Park
The evening show.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The sun is gone, the sky is dark. Bats are flying over the lake, letting out shrill chee-chee cries. They are spilling out in all directions, as chaotically and in as large numbers as their human counterparts in the Rajiv Chowk Metro station, during the rush hours of the BC (before corona) era.
This is one of the most surreal sights to experience in the Capital. Every day, just after sunset, hundreds of bats start flying over and around the lake in south Delhi’s Deer Park.
This evening the crowd of regular walkers has almost disappeared, and the stage is left empty for the flying bats’ performance. They are flapping their wings in great restlessness, and are noisily streaming through the air. It is difficult to see anything in the dark—sky, water and trees are in varying shades of black. The bats are discernible only because they are of the darkest hue.
One swiftly notices that the mammals are flying out of a small tree-filled island in the lake. The island is inaccessible to visitors but, during the day, scores of those tree-clinging bats are easily visible from the park’s walking tracks—hanging upside down from the branches, and probably sleeping, as is the habit of nocturnal animals.
To be sure, Delhi harbours a great number of bats. The trees along the Janpath avenue, in the central part of the city, teem with them. In the evening, as their day begins, the creatures drift across like smoke, but one is likely to be stuck in traffic at that hour, and the bats, flying high up above the trees, go unnoticed.
But here in Deer Park, they emanate out of the island and course through the empty space most majestically, some flying towards Hauz Khas village, some towards Safdarjung Enclave in the opposite direction, and some towards Green Park.
This evening the moon is in (almost) full bloom, and to see the bats going about this white orb fills the senses with intense thrill. It’s like being in a dream, or perhaps a nightmare, depending on your feeling about these unique creatures.
The rush-hour bats