City Hangout – Post-Second Surge Lodhi Garden, Central Delhi
In the light of a tragedy.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A masked man on a bench. Behind, a centuries-old stone tomb. All around, grass and trees. No other human to be seen.
Wandering in Lodhi Garden, a day after the reopening of Delhi’s public parks, reacquaints one with its familiar solitudes in a new way. It’s like welcoming home one’s loved one after their long and traumatic stay in the hospital, watching them gradually acclimatise to the life in the house. Relief is tinged with sadness.
Perhaps because the evening sky is particularly picturesque, with tiny puffs of clouds scattered about like cotton stuffing ripped out of a pillow, Lodhi Garden is permeated with a more intense beauty. Are we still in that same grief-stricken city of two months ago, where everyone seemed to know of at least one person who died to the coronavirus?
A few joggers are showing up here and there in their athletic accessories, their fit figures swathed in sweat. On the Athpula bridge, a woman is photographing the sun setting behind the lake’s fountain.
Further along, the famous pink pair of giant bougainvillea trees are in haughty bloom. In the falling darkness, they are looking like two bonfires. The green benches under them that would be filled with romantic couples, in between the two surges, are vacant.
Under a far-off tall tree, a man and a woman are sitting on a bench. She’s in a dressy skirt with high heels. He is explaining something with great passion to her, the motions of his arms in synchronisation with the turns of his thoughts—maybe. With nobody around them for great distances, the couple are looking deeply by themselves, as if they were actors staging a play in an empty theatre.
Meanwhile, the circular garden with rose beds in front of the tiny Mughal pavilion is empty, except for a large unusual bird with an extraordinarily long beak and a red dot on her head. She is hopping boldly on the grass.
Oh, the grass. In some places it stands too tall, an attestation that the park was closed for a long time, and perhaps the gardeners couldn’t trim all the portions. Then there’s the legendary dead tree in front of the Sheesh Gumbad, raising its naked, spindly branches to the sky like the limbs of a mourner frozen in grief. This is the only sight in the sprawling park that appears to mark the tragedy our city is dealing with.
Beyond familiar solitudes