City Season – October Light, Around Town
Tracking the season’s subtle glow
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The shadows the tree leaves are making on the wall are continually trembling (because a slow breeze is blowing the adjoining trees). On the same wall, a spherical shadow of some indecipherable thing enlarges and contracts. Elsewhere on the wall, spheres of brightnesses partly intersect, like circles in a Venn diagram (see photo). Meanwhile, the evening light is becoming slightly gold, stripping the wall of its corporeality, turning it almost translucent.
Such are the illusions unfolding on Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Marg. The shadows formed by the foliage of the roadside peepals have transformed a dull boundary wall into a panel of artistic cut-outs.
This is indeed a special time of the year, light-wise. Summer and monsoons have ended. Winters are yet to set in. The sky is mostly clear, free of smog and even of clouds. The daylight is unusually luminous. You cannot properly experience the penetrating puissance of this rare light by merely looking up at the sky. You have to instead look for places (read surfaces) that obstruct this light, forcing it to scatter into fantastical patterns and effects.
It however must be admitted that the aforementioned KG Marg wall stages its brilliant cut-out show throughout the year (except during the days of stubble burning in Punjab). Indeed, some hours ago, when it was still afternoon, and the air was windier, the shadows of the tree leaves were trembling more vigorously. At times the passing shadow of a pedestrian would sweep along the wall, crudely wading through the leaf-patterns. It would then be like magic-realism jumping out of the pages of an Isabel Allende novel and transposing itself into a non-magical real world.
Now, as the evening deepens, the light has become softer, its gold glow seeping liquid-like along the wall, turning the veneer into a texture of pale fire.
Another arresting place to view the October light is at the entrance to the Sufi shrine of Shah Abdul Salaam Faridi Chishti in Connaught Place, Outer Circle. At around four in the evening these days, the tiny trimmed leaves of the adjacent neem draws a densely detailed shadow on the pale blue wall beside the gate, which then looks as delicate and rich as the most maheen chikan embroidery of Lucknow.
Perhaps the October light’s most powerful spectacle is to be encountered in Gurugram, on the ramparts of the Kama Sarai gateway in Sadar Bazar. Under the red-hued evening sky, the jagged stones are divested of their solidity, becoming sculptured lumps of frozen flames. The sight is to be seen to be believed.