City Hangout – F Block, Connaught Place
The CP spirit.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The benches are stained with bird droppings. The muddy ground behind is littered with rat holes. The neem tree isn’t particularly shady. And yet, this place gives you a shat-pratishat feel of the Connaught Place (CP).
For the record, there are many ways to experience Delhi’s colonial-era commercial district. These are some popular ones:
Lounging in Central Park.
Making endless circles of the Inner Circle and Outer Circle.
Eating out in heritage eateries such as Kwality or Indian Coffee House, or shopping in iconic shops such as Oriental Fruits Mart or Ram Chander and Sons toy store.
And then there is sitting on this little plaza on F block. This afternoon, as always, nothing is happening here. You feel like in a Chekhov story where everything is felt despite zero action. It is the everydayness of the place that is slow-condensing to an inexplicable profoundness. Right this instant a guard is sitting on a bench, probably on a break from his duty—he is holding his ramshackle gun in one hand and his mobile phone in another. On the next bench, a man’s ear is being dewaxed by ear cleaner Sikander. Next to them, shoe cleaner Akshay is trying to persuade a man to repair his damaged shoe. Akshay’s dogged murmurs (“Sir, sir, please sir, sir please”) are the only sounds for now. The rest you hear is indecipherable—low hum of shoppers and infrequent blowing of car horns. But these sounds are echoing through the air, and so they deceptively appear to be coming from far.
Behind the benches, about a dozen earthen pots are filed with water, presumably for the plaza’s pigeons. Though no bird is here for the moment.
Then this is also the spot to examine the harmony in CP’s complicated architectures. The white British-era corridors of the old times stretch out along a long line until they are abruptly stopped by the multi-stored Gopal Das Bhawan of the new times.
Meanwhile, the long bench on which only one man was sitting is now filled to full. All folks are silent. Some seem to be dozing off, others are staring at their mobile phone screen.
An hour later, a new set of people are lounging. The vibes are still the same.