City Hangout – 9pm at Sunder Nursery, Central Delhi
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The smoggy sky is pitch black. Amid the trees, a procession is standing silently with flaming torches.
No, these are lamps lining a pathway.
This is Sunder Nursery at 9 pm. By now, almost all public parks in the city are closed for the day. But since two months, this garden, speckled with centuries-old monuments, has been staying open till late into the night.
At this hour, the strategically positioned lamps have lifted the darkening garden to a state of heightened beauty. The sprawling landscape of water, trees and stones is appearing playful, as if the three elements are mischievously trespassing into each other’s territory, a daring conduct unthinkable during the day. The sense of unreality has percolated even to an empty bench under a tree. You are only able to discern its shape, which is darker than the grassy slope behind, that is glowing faintly under the light of a distant lamp.
Some distance away, a woman is sitting alone by the lake, her head cast downwards. The water in the lake is filled with the bright reflection of the adjacent Lakkarwala Burj, the monument lit up for the night. A couple is sitting under a semal tree, their heads almost touching.
The park has two coffee kiosks. The larger one, towards the exit, is open and looking ordinary. The smaller of the kiosks, parked towards the Rose Garden, is shuttered close. Armoured in the vaporous golden glow of nearby lamps, it is evocative of classic nighttime photos of Paris — as captured by legendary photographer Brassaï in the 1930s.
Close to Sunder Burj, a large family is lounging on the grass, the sound of their uninhibited gupshup is freely floating along the warm humid air. A few members of this group are playing kho kho; the sight of young and giggling grown-ups running after one another is as fantastical as the fairies of Shakespeare’s nocturnal comedy.
Some steps away, the park’s sunken amphitheater is hidden in dimness and gives the impression of being an ancient baoli, or stone well.
On Champa Avenue, a frangipani tree is decked up richly with its shiny white blossoms, giving a mildly heady scent.
The park closes at 10.
A midsummer night’s nursery