City Walk – Hauz Khas Village Road, South Delhi
A road as destination.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The cool breeze is blowing through the trees. The leaves stir occasionally, like a woman turning in her sleep. Though quietness is not absolute — there are sounds too — a sense of silence does linger around, imperceptibly, as if it were hiding behind a tree.
Strolling aimlessly along this partially busy road is like detoxing yourself from your daily existence. The many layers that complicate one’s life are peeled away, leaving one raw and fresh. It is a wonder that no guidebook has recommended a walk along this short route. Tucked in the heart of south Delhi, it is merely exploited as a road to link Aurobindo Marg to the touristy Hauz Khas Village. But this brief stretch ought to be revered as a destination.
The starting point is marked with the Green Park Free Church, whose prayer hall is intensely meditative. On the left is the Aurobindo Market, with its assortment of charming longtime shops, whose owners have a chatty bond with their customers, evocative of small town bazars. More points of interest wait ahead, such as the monumental Dadi Poti ke Makbare—two centuries-old domes, with a sloping ground of grass on which the area’s pre-omicron office goers would lie down during their lunch breaks. Another monument, Barah Khamba, lies on the other side of the lane, littered with graves of unknown people. Further ahead, another prominent monument. Chhoti Gumti is truly chhoti. The area’s dog walkers often let their pets run over its lawn, while idle pigeons sit on the dome, like well-behaved MPs in the parliament.
The most cherishsble characteristic about these landmarks is that they are not loud about their attraction. Contentedly ensconced in their solitary world of trees and stones, they seem to assure the guilty passerby that “it is ok if you feel too lazy to survey our antiquity right now. Come tomorrow, or the day after, we are not going away.” (In any case, most of them are temporarily closed to visitors due to the pandemic.)
As you walk ahead, a shining white vision appears in the form of Jagannath Mandir. The entrance is adorned with a sacred wheel, which, according to a hoarding, was used in 2018 on the chariot of Lord Jagannath in Puri, Odisha. Across the road from the temple, Shambhu Nath’s evening-hour snack stall serves Odisha-style vada, accompanied with the traditional ghughni. Unfortunately, he is not coming these days due to coronavirus-related concerns, but is expected to reopen his stall on Monday.
Further along, the views on both sides of the road become wilder, full of trees and bushes. And then suddenly you are in Hauz Khas village, with its crowd and noise.
A less experienced path