City Walk – Civil Lines, North Delhi & Gurugram
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is the balmiest of places. It is the balmiest of places. It is called Civil Lines. It is called Civil Lines. It is in north Delhi. It is further south, in Gurugram. The all-knowing Wikipedia describes Civil Lines as “the residential neighbourhoods developed during the British Raj for its senior civilian officers like Divisional commissioner and District magistrate.” Here’a brief account of a smog-soaked wintertime walk in both the aforementioned Lines, lined with bungalows and trees. Indeed, to stand under these roadside arbors and purposelessly watch the slow-moving cyclists on the road lulls the senses—as if you have finally orbited out from the worldly loop of WhatsApp alerts and instagram reels.
This walk starts from the underground Civil Lines Metro station and stretches out to a luxury hotel nearby. The station’s exit numbered 3 is planted outside a white colonnade that houses The Exchange Stores, established in 1934. Connaught Place’s legendary Wenger’s Cake Shop had opened here initially. The walk’s dramatic sights include stuff as exciting as green grass peeking out of pavement cracks, silent street dogs curled into semi-circles, and occasional street food sellers quietly serving aloo parathe to their quiet patrons. A matar-kulche stall provides the free comfort of a broken wicker sofa mended with sheets of plywood. One of the side-alleys is particularly unusual. It is bestowed with three side-by-side signages bearing the alley’s name of Sri Ram—in green, blue and yellow respectively, see photo. Elsewhere, the surrounding bungalows are gated, secretive, and as aloof from the public world outside as only unimaginable privilege can be. Soon, you reach the imposing gates to a “heritage” hotel “since 1903.”
Start the walk from the British-built Church of Epiphany. The pathway is lined with longstanding bungalows. One of these has weedy wild bushes growing on the roof. Soon you reach the Swatantrata Senani Zila Parishad Hall; this building has tall windows with coloured panes. A corner of the compound is dedicated to a tower inscribed with the names of area’s soldiers martyred in the various wars. The memorial is bordered by frangipani trees. End the walk with chai at a pavement stall, outside a red bungalow, managed by a friendly couple. (Warning: sometimes leaves of the adjacent neem tree fall into the chai.) You might also like to treat yourself to the tasty famous chhole bhathure at the aptly named Civil Line Walla.