City Landmark – Mango Tree, Deer Park
The bench under a special tree.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is handsome, with a pleasant disposition, seeming to unite some of the best blessings of existence. It has lived here for many years, with very little to distress or vex its place in the world.
This tree in south Delhi’s Deer Park generously exudes its happy-go-lucky temperament throughout the vicinity. A gloomy passerby walking through the park is bound to experience at least a fleeting rush of giddy emotions on seeing this landmark. If tree had human faces, this one would always be smiling.
On this incredibly hot and humid evening, the entire park is swarmed with people from nearby Safdarjung Enckave, Hauz Khas Vilage, and Green Park who can be seen walking, jogging and exercising all over the grass. There are a few sightseers too, coming from far distances to circle the park’s glassy lake that overlooks Hauz Khas monuments. This general well-being finds its natural seat in the figure of this joyful tree. A bench placed directly under it is occupied by a young man. He is sitting on the top of the backrest, his feet on the seat. He is reading a book with a blue cover. Looking up at the leaves, he identifies his shelter as a mango tree. But no mangoes can be seen hanging from the branches, though it is the season for them.
One might wonder, though, if the tree’s cheeriness doesn’t come with a bit of indifference to the world around it. For many years, the elderly Musaddi Lal Gupta would come daily from his residence nearby to sit on a place not far from this tree, and for hours he would weave khadi fabric on a little charkha. He died last year during the second wave of Covid-19. The tree looked the same happy even then, and it looks that same happy now, with no hint of mourning for the venerable khadi man. It also shed the same happiness during the tragic period of the second wave, when Deer Park’s silence would only be intruded by bird sounds and ambulance sirens.
Facing a 13th century stone pavalion, the tree’s foliage is leafy and flawlessly symmetrical—like a photoshopped celebrity on a glossy magazine cover.
Monsoon will arrive in a few weeks. During the rainy days, a perennial water puddle will form under the tree, as it does every year. The tree and the bench under it will be turned into a little island, and look even more enigmatic.