City Walk – The Lane Along Red Fort, Old Delhi
The best stroll.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sailing into the Red Fort used to be so smooth. You would buy the ticket, queue up by the entrance and slip in. This was before the pandemic.
Now that easy access to the monument lie barricaded, and the ticket counter has moved to the fort’s northern extremity. The visitor must walk for half a kilometre before reaching the entrance. Many of us see this as an unnecessary inconvenience. But many of us also perennially crib about how walking unfriendly our Delhi is.
The truth is that this long-winded path to Lal Qila is arguably the most stunningly picturesque walking trail in the entire Delhi-NCR. The smooth road is wide, tree-lined, with no vehicular traffic except for E-rickshaws (for those who don’t want to walk). The entire route is flanked on the right by the fort’s signature ramparts. Indeed, to almost every Indian, Delhi’s Red Fort means, first and foremost, this long stretch of red wall. The sight fires up such awe that stepping inside the fort can be a let down. So much of the complex was destroyed by the British in the 1857 uprising. That said, Lal Quila looks completely unblemished from outside, and this stroll from the ticket counter to the fort’s entrance brings the visitor tantalising close to these 17th century ramparts (which isn’t possible once you are inside the premises). This afternoon, the air is cold and misty, and yet the place feels sunny. Perhaps because the road is teeming with picnicky travellers walking to, and from, the fort. Many are dressed very stylishly. Some are snapping the fort walls, others are clicking selfies. It’s like being a part of the promenade of a holiday destination—think of the lakeside Mall Road in Nainital, or the beachside marina in Pondicherry.
While walking, you’ll discover that the Mughal-era ramparts are pierced with long vertical slits. Centuries ago, armed guards might have aimed their guns through these gaps, but today these narrow spaces shoot out flocks of birds in swift interludes. The wall is separated from the pathway by a grassy moat. While the view on the other side of this pathway is of empty acres, beyond which you see the labyrinthine world of Old Delhi, including the slim minarets of the faraway Jama Masjid.
On reaching the entrance to the Red Fort, a sensitive visitor might feel anxious. The walk turns out so intense that anything else after it might threaten to wane like a music piece fading from a crescendo to decrescendo. But no worries—on returning from inside the fort, the walk back will again pipe up the sonata.
PS: No need to buy the ticket if you just want to walk on this road. The ticket is only for the entry inside the fort.
The pleasure walk