City Hangout – Sunset Bench, Lodhi Gardens
A twilight experience.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s just a bench. But right now it is hewn out of the sun’s very soul.
This is one of the most thaumaturgic sights in Delhi. The setting is Lodhi Gardens. The chosen bench, close to the Athpula stone bridge, lies in a most strategic point. The dipping sun directly hits it at about 5.30pm (October time).
This evening, the green seat is dappled in an impossible-to-capture-on-camera misty halo of amber. Pools of luminous light have fallen on the leaf-strewn ground in front of the bench, as well as on the leaf-strewn space behind it. Being empty, the bench is also saturated with the well-known poignancy of all empty park benches, but that mundane melancholy doesn’t dampen the moment’s fantastical spectacle.
For now, the painted metal of the bench seems to have lost its solidness, as if the bench were an apparition that could be seen and felt but not touched. Dappled in the dreaminess of the setting sun, it seems to be entirely composed of some supernatural essence containing and concealing a blessing (or a curse). You are reluctant to come close to it, the way one is wary of approaching a person believed to be possessed by a spirit.
This perception of the sun-bathed bench isn’t universally shared, though. On some evenings, it is casually claimed by a random park visitor, who shows no consideration for its gold-filled aura. One evening a woman was sitting on it, absorbed in a talk-of-the-town novel. She looked like a sculpture, cast into a red-edged silhouette.
The only drawback of this experience is that the magical light stays on the bench too briefly. Try to be here in advance so as not to miss the fleeting moment. Later, the bench retreats to its ordinary existence, and becomes part of the park’s post-dusk darkness. The visitor is left with a feeling of saudade, that enigmatic Portuguese word evoking a sad and intense longing for something that doesn’t exist. The bench lies across the jogging track from a public loo.
Bench in blossom