City Walk – Former Stone Quarry, Gurgaon-Faridabad Road
Into the wild.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This is a city walk that gives a sense of the land our city stands on. Let’s start with the mysterious wall crisscrossing through what looks like a jungle. It emerges from a bunch of trees, runs along a couple of 100 metres over the red sandy earth, and disappears again into more trees. This is the view from the cliff, as you look below at what used to be a stone quarry. The wall must have been built when the quarry was active to mark the Delhi-Haryana interstate border.
The cliff is a few steps away from the busy Gurgaon-Faridabad road, in the hilly Aravalli landscape, within the National Capital Region. The spot is situated a short drive away from the city centres of Delhi and Gurgaon. The area used to be excavated for Badarpur sand and stone—for centuries.
The mining in this piece of scenery began in the early 1990s and, following a court order, ended a decade later. The place looks abandoned.
One carefully walks down the rocky slope on which trucks once carried stones from the mine. The ground is red with Badarpur sand. The sides of the slope are made of the same sand; their depressions and fissures suggest that the surface is being eroded by water. The slender leafless stems of tamarisk, a rare tree in Delhi, is beginning to bloom with little pink flowers. The blue flowers of shankhpushpi are growing not an inch above the ground. The soil here is porous and does not retain water, and so only a narrow band of plants survives. Siras, ullu and sheesham are other trees growing here, along with the thorny vilayati keekar. One wonders if many centuries ago, most of the Delhi region with its present-day colonies, sectors, malls and markets resembled this bleak terrain.
Somewhere beyond this silence, a cicada is singing.
The walk goes down to a flat, parched ground. At one corner stands a datura plant, with a solitary white flower. A little further, on a slope, is a sand cave that houses a small community of monkeys, along with birds and insects. There are also signs of porcupine and palm civet. The cave’s packed sand could easily disintegrate and wash away in heavy rain, destroying the little habitat it nurtures.
On climbing back the slope towards the busy road, the wilderness feels like a mirage.
A perspective of the city