City Hangout – Asaf Ali’s Statue, Near Dilli Gate
A place like no other.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This day, last year: hundreds of pigeons around freedom fighter Asaf Ali’s statue.
This day, this year: hundreds of pigeons still around the same statue.
Yet, the place has been transformed.
This can become one of the loveliest little places to lounge in the entire national capital region. It is still not open, so nothing official about this sneak preview.
Earlier, the plaza at the head of Asaf Ali Road was impossible to penetrate. Every inch of the land was occupied by pigeons. All through the day, people would get grains from the grain hawkers sitting by the statue, and feed the fat birds. The scene was reminiscent of Roman vomitoriums where the guests would eat and eat, throw up, and eat again. The whole ground, as well as the venerable statue, stayed stained with the bird droppings.
Some months ago the plaza was barricaded. This afternoon, the birds are as packed as ever, but the dirty ground has given way to a thick bed of grass. That’s right, there has been a facelift. Shinny benches are scattered around the lawn.
This new garden will open soon, assures a car parking attendant nearby, gesturing towards the plaza’s recently installed lamp posts, still covered in plastic. He credits the renovation to a joint enterprise of Delhi Metro with the city’s municipal corporation.
A gap through the barricade makes it possible to enter the enclosure. The photo above doesn’t convey even half the beauty the place is exuding. It is tranquil to sit on a bench, to gaze upon the statue, to observe the society of birds. The Mughal-era Dill Gate, nearby, adds gravity to the backdrop. The traffic speeding along the avenues is incessant but its unsteady rumble fails to shatter the shanti.
There certainly are many places in the big wide metropolis to feed the pigeons (such as the Masjid Udyan in Gurugram, etc), but nowhere will you find benches dispersed so picturesquely around a bird-filled nook, presided over by a stately statue, and with a centuries-old monument within easy sight. Such panoramas are common in European cities, where they tend to be a popular meeting point for the locals (check Henri Cartier-Bresson photos). Now, our Delhi, too, has one. Hoping the place is unveiled asap. Just a few steps away from Delhi Gate metro station.
Conference of birds