City Hangout – Tulip Garden, Lodhi Gardens
Stuff of love songs.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A true artist never dies. Singer Lata Mangeshkar, who passed away a few days ago, continues to be an integral part of our daily life. Multiple generations of Hindi film heroines have lip-synced to her timeless renditions, while dancing about flowers and trees. Those songs lie entrenched in our bones, as well as in our parents’, and grandparents’.
One of the ways in which you may offer tribute to this beloved icon is to drop by at a little enclosure in central Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens. It is officially called the Butterfly Park. Here, you will hear no song of hers, but you will feel the spirit of all the Lata Mangeshkar songs. This is a tiny pond around which hundreds of multi-coloured tulips are presently in full bloom. On landing into the place, the eyes might instinctively search for Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha, whom we imagine well lying amid the flowers, singing “Dekha ek khwab”—the much-loved sequence from the 1981 film Silsila, in which the two actors performed to the playback of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar respectively. That song was famously filmed among the tulips, but those were the tulips of distant Netherlands. These tulips are of our Delhi.
The enclosure lies like a whisper in a corner of the sprawling Lodhi Gardens. This evening, the rest of the park is super-packed with Sunday picnickers. Not many seem to be aware of the existence of these exquisite tulips. Their sight is so rare and beautiful, and their beauty so indescribable, that it cannot be captured in words or photos.
Around the garden’s shapely pond, the series of walkways looks like a pilgrims’ route circumambulating around a sacred shrine. The walkways are separated by broad hedges. Each hedge contains a colony of socially distanced tulips. The hedge closest to the pond has red tulips. The second hedge has tulips in yellow. The third has white ones. The fourth, orange ones. You may occasionally spot a black sheep among the same-coloured tulips, like a white flower standing defiantly amid a mob of yellow.
All these tulips’ leaves are entwined together, as if hiding love letters. Some seem slightly withered, their petals hanging down lamely—the flaws fill their beauty with poignant fragility.
“These tulips are very delicate: if you hurt them, even unintentionally, they at once collapse,” warns garden staffer Mukesh Tyagi. He has been deployed to make sure that visitors do not damage the flowers. Graciously agreeing to a request, he sits down between the tulips for a portrait. The flowers bloomed in November, he says, and will keep their bloom until mid-March.
Ps: A senior park official confirms that the tulips were introduced into the garden two years ago, with species imported from Netherlands, thereby making them the descendants of Silsila’s tulips.