City Hangout – Sunset View, Shaheen Bagh
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The sky is daubed with many gradations of orange. Though the fading blue, ensconced further upwards, is doggedly lingering on, like powdery mist.
Imperceptibly, it all turns purplish pink — the sky, and everything on earth, including the road, the buildings, the garbage.
The sunset in Shaheen Bagh is one of the most ethereal sights to be experienced in the Capital. With the winter’s fog giving way to smog-free clarity, it is the ideal time to sprint to this south Delhi neighbourhood. Shaheen Bagh can be as typical as any Bagh or Vihar in the city, with cramped by-lanes showing cramped views of the sky. The best way to experience the surreality of the twilight here is possible only through one approach — reach the neighbourhood by Metro.
The elevated station (full name: Jasola Vihar Shaheen Bagh) on the Magenta Line is extraordinarily gigantic. This evening, exiting it through its footbridge is like getting lost in a desolated labyrinth of metal and concrete. You feel distanced from the stir of society. The cries of the boys playing cricket down under echoes eerily through the bridge. Soon, the light from the disappeared sun starts to settle in all around the station. Even the clogged drain, adjacent to the station, has transmuted into a thing unworldly, as if it were a bed of molten gold.
Most Delhi residents might imagine the Metro station at Shaheen Bagh only as a public service utility. But the locals make the most of it in other ways, too. That should explain the very many number of people sitting idly on the stairs of the footbridge. They are not looking like commuters in a hurry. A middle-aged woman is lounging in one corner, looking absentmindedly at the coloured hues of the sky. Some young men are taking selfies on the stairs. A brown dog is passing from one group of people to another, often being patted by a friendly hand.
The most surreal scope of catching the Shaheen Bagh sunset emerges when one is getting off the stairs. The dust-covered road is glowing in pinkish-red. Far away, beyond the bridge that you just descended from, a most fantastical thing has suddenly surfaced. Is it a space station that has slowly descended from a great height? Or are extra terrestrials about to get off their ship and set foot on our planet? But, of course, that is just the Shaheen Bagh Metro station bathed in the evening’s gathering redness. The more you gaze upon it, the more mysterious it gets. A feverish mind might as well construe it as a transitory stop between here and hereafter. Soon, the colours are gone. And the sky becomes dark.
Twilight in Shaheen Bagh