City Walk - Monsoon Stroll, Civil Lines

City Walk – Monsoon Stroll, Civil Lines

City Walk - Monsoon Stroll, Civil Lines

Civil Lines impressionism.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

A well-known couple residing in upscale Civil Lines, in north Delhi, recently checked themselves for a few days into a room at the India International Center (Annexe). Reason: their area got flooded, prompting problems like long power cuts, etc.

Civil Lines is just too close to the Yamuna.

But then there’s another Civil Lines in our megapolis, much further from the river, and as civil. This one is in Gurgaon, and, like all its counterparts spreads across India, was set up by the British to house the district administrators. Parts of the enclave are sleepy, but charmingly addictive, demanding a repeat return each time you yearn for silence and slow time. Particularly satisfying to be here during the monsoon. In light rains, a casual stroll becomes invigorating.

For instance, a rutty lane near the Church of Epiphany overwhelms with its noisy peacocks. They mostly stay hidden amid trees and bushes, but in overcast afternoons the air grows heavy with the melodic cry of their “main hoon, main hoon.” Be careful though. A gardener warns that the “peacocks tend to be in places full of snakes.”

A less risky place to experience the rains is the old wing of the aforementioned church. Its 19th century interiors are removed from the world of today. During a visit in a previous year’s July, the ceiling was adorned with old timber, its dark wooden beams inspiring a hushed reverence. The monsoon showers were falling outside the tall lancet windows, making the glass panes misty.

Across the road from the church is Swatantrata Senani Zila Parishad Hall, built in 1925 to commemorate the then district commissioner’s son. A corner of the compound houses a newer monument, eulogizing the valiant men of the Gurugram region, such as Phool Singh and Lila Singh of Bhondsi village, and Bhup Singh of Rithoj. All these soldiers offered the supreme sacrifice in our many wars—the First World War, the “Chinese aggression in 1962”, the “Indo-Pak conflict of 1965” and the “Indo-Pak war 1971”. (There’s a further list of men who gave their lives in recent conflicts. Such as Ahmad Ali, who died during the Kargil war with Pakistan, and Ram Kishan, who died during the Operation Blue Star in Punjab.) The names, inscribed on a tower, invoke respect, sadness, and the lines of an iconic Wilfred Owen poem (Google it!)

One of the Civil Lines pathways is marked by a light blue wall, a part of which is densely streaked with the rainy season’s fresh green moss. It evokes an impressionist Normandy painting by Monet, depicting the reflection of poplar trees in river Epte—see photo.