City Walk – Prithviraj Road, Central Delhi
A stroll through exclusivity.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The road is wide. The pavement is also wide, so wide that three or four of us can easily walk together side by side. Meanwhile, the night air is cool and fresh, making Delhi’s smog appears like a rumour. Maybe because it rained a while ago. The road is walled on both side with gigantic peepals, pilkhans, jamuns and (unbelievably massive) banyans. The traffic is scant. Only 10pm but such deep sannata, as if it were midnight. The city seems to be asleep.
But honestly, which city is this? Certainly not the everyday Delhi we are familiar with.
Speckled with sprawling bungalows, Prithviraj Road is mostly the address of the extreme wealthy—it had a bungalow where the iconic industrialist JRD Tata would stay during his visits to Delhi.
Even so, there is an easy way for us citizens from elsewhere to occupy this exclusive segment of the capital–by strolling along its public paves. Daytime walks are rewarding, but walking here after sunset is mystical. Right now, the night-time darkness is seamlessly entwined with the faintly emitting glow of the street lamps. The luminous amalgam has created an ethereal sort of light, soft and soulful. The trees are almost black at this hour, but one leafless tree has its naked branches ablaze with this magical light, making the bare snaky branches look like Medusa’s hair.
The paves are empty, the shut gateways to the huge bungalows drowned in partial light, the nameplates almost invisible. Does the life of the people living in these fabulous houses intersect at any point with ours? Do they actually take the trouble to fly to Switzerland for their holidays—living in these houses must itself be an escape.
A bungalow here—it used to be the residence of the Mexican ambassador until some years ago–has an Amaltas that blooms brilliantly in summer. The photo of that tree appeared on the cover of a novel. The bungalow served as the home of poet Octavio Paz during his tenure as Mexican envoy.
One of these houses is inhabited by former deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, recently awarded with the Bharat Ratna.
Soon after leaving behind the Turkish ambassador’s residence (once home to the great Dr BR Ambedkar), a man appears with a dog on the leash. Both are quiet, and within moments they are no longer seen.
The last point of the road, on the right-side pavement that turns towards Khan Market’s backside, is marked by a tree with a hollow cavity at the base of its trunk. An earthen lamp is lit within. See photo.