City Landmark – Lost Banyan Tree, Connaught Place
You’ll be remembered.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Some may think it is no big deal. That in this city of ruins, this is just another ruin. But this tree in Connaught Place (CP) was a friend to many. Especially during the fag end of the day—from early evening to late night, when many of us would stand under it, either with a friend, or waiting for a friend. Loners would be there too, often watching the latte-cappuccino crowd lounging behind the glass walls of an expensive coffee shop.
And then a great storm lashed through Delhi, exactly a month ago. Scores of trees were uprooted. This tree in A block happened to be one of them.
This afternoon, all that is left is the bottom-most part of the tree. The roots are embedded into a slab of earth. They look like fossilised arteries. The sturdy white columns of the colonial-era shopping district forms the backdrop of the dismal scene
Built on the site of a babool forest, Connaught Place remains one of the few markets in the capital with a dense population of trees. The inner circle has many semals. A lush pilkhan stands near the Palika Bazar. Before it became all trimmed, grassy, gentrified and its underground hollowed out into a metro terminus, Central Park, the heart of CP, was wild with luscious peepals, banyans and neems. That was at the turn of the century. The millennials will have no experience of those trees.
This lost tree in A block will be forgotten too. It was deeply entrenched into the fabric of the area and seemed to have always been there. But R Pandey, who has been running an outdoor kiosk near the tree since 1983, contradicts that assumption. Gesturing towards where the tree used to be, he asserts that he, along with a few other men who work in the area, planted scores of trees in the block two decades back, including this lost “bar,” or banyan (bargad), as he identifies it. Listening to him, auto rickshaw driver Ratan Varma backs the claim. They both point out that a neem tree stood beside the banyan, and it was also destroyed by the storm.
Some steps ahead, towards the outer circle of the same block, a tall tree survived the storm. This tree is so dense with leaves that it looks like a mini-jungle. Underneath, a man is lying asleep.
Lest we forget