City Landmark – Water Fountain, Kasturba Gandhi Road
Time passing by a place.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
New in town. This water fountain. A couple clicks a selfie with it as their backdrop, and walk on contentedly.
The fountain came up at one end of a road divider where it expands into a small plaza, right on the tip of Kasturba Gandhi Marg, across the road from Connaught Place’s N-Block. It started spewing out the “pani” a week ago, says Ramesh Kumar, who administers a pavement shoe repair establishment, nearby.
Whether or not you, dear reader, find a big deal about this three-tiered fountain, it shall play its role in altering the face of one of the most historic parts of your megapolis. Within weeks, the modest landmark would embed itself into the DNA of the colonial-era district characterised by its stately white colonnades. Green moss has already formed on the pool’s floor. We shall soon grow so used to the sight that it will be difficult to recall the time when the fountain didn’t exist. This is how a furiously changing city helps the hapless citizens navigate through change.
The city shall perhaps forget that for a brief period this plaza was exclusively Chanda’s territory. A mother of five daughters, Chanda have been selling food grains for birds on this same spot for about seven years. All day long, hundreds of fat pigeons huddle around this friendly woman, greedily waiting for sensitive passers-by to purchase fistfuls of grains from her and toss those to them.
The plaza first started to draw the birds many years back when the enterprising Rajkumari set up a stall here for bird food. She would commute from New Railway Road in Gurgaon, where she lived with her family in a roadside camp, as another bird-food seller in the area told to The Delhi Walla. Chanda commutes from equally far Nangloi.
At this moment in the evening, Chanda however isn’t to be seen. The new fountain is enjoying all the attention. Shoe repairer Ramesh Kumar says that she has been coming sporadically, once in ten days or so.
Now a man with a large while sack slung on his shoulder walks towards the plaza. Standing motionless, he gazes at the fountain’s cascading waters—see photo.
On another evening, some years ago, Chanda was sitting right where this fountain is. A bird was perched atop her head. Smoking a beedi, she had muttered, “My work gives me some paisa as well as some punya.” The bird continued sitting on her head for a long time.
Scenes from a lost time