City Hangout – Yamuna View Point, H. Nizamuddin Bridge
River in the city.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Stumbling into this distant scenery is like randomly opening an old issue of National Geographic magazine, and finding a breathtakingly panoramic two-page spread on some legendary river.
But this is polluted Yamuna in Delhi. From this vantage spot on H. Nizamuddin bridge however, the river, winding through a terrain of trees and greens, is looking quite pristine. Such is the subtle playful trick of the little known Yamuna View Point to upend a citizen’s silted relationship with the river.
The baggy wide Delhi is a mishmash of signature scenes: the cliffy rocks of the Aravali ridge, the concrete stalagmites of Gurgaon, the bookstores of Khan Market, the traffic jams of Ashram flyover, the white bungalows of Chankayapuri, the Maggi stalls of the North Campus, the tombs, the forts and whatnot. But hardly anybody cares to include the sacred river into this standard mural even though it travels 22km within Delhi khaas, and covers 48km in the entire Delhi region, and has Gurugram’s Sahibi nadi as its tributary.
This elevated spot becomes special because it cracks down on that ignorance. It shows Yamuna’s true place in the city. Here, the river is sufficiently close to give us a perspective of its glassy beauty, and far enough for us not to suffer from its stench and filth. This rainy afternoon the Yamuna is looking as intrinsic to Delhi as Ganga-ji must be to Benares and Seine to je t’aime Paris. The vast tract of land and water is exuding the vibes of a coveted tourist trap. You can easily visualise hundreds of Delhiwale mobbing the banks from both sides of Jamna-paar, turning the river into a fairground of boat rides, floating dhabas, ice-cream shikaras. (Post sundown, the riverside Akshardham Mandir firing up the dark water with its nightlights.)
Delhi actually did enjoy an intimacy with the Yamuna. The 14th century sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya lived and mediated beside the river. A legend tells of him spotting an impoverished woman drawing water from a well. He asked her why she was not using the Yamuna water instead. The woman respectfully replied, complaining of Jamna jal being so tasty that it induced hunger, and she had nothing with her to eat.
Today, one might wonder what Delhi’s Yamuna would have looked like if the city had let it be. A perfect point to ponder at Yamuna View Point.
PS: A popular shikanji and paneer pakora shop stands close to the river point.