City Walk - Civil Lines, Gurugram

City Walk – Civil Lines, Gurugram

A walk for a civil season.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The fog is gone. The smog isn’t so visible. The sky is of a rare blue, at least on certain days. It is that magical time of the year when the bitter cold has receded and heat is still to become unbearable. This is the best period to repeat a quiet walk in one of Delhi’s quietest, most serene places—the Civil Lines in Gurugram.

Start with the old wing of the historic Church of Epiphany (see photo), consecrated in 1866 by the Bishop of Calcutta for a handful of British officers. A stroll around the red building reveals its colonial-era origins—the slim lancet windows, the small bell tower, the apse crouched muscularly, and the gabled roof sloping down as melodiously as a Mozart sonata. The silent prayer chamber within is meditative, the ceiling bolstered on a frame of timber roof truss. Everything hushed.

Just outside the church, a sun-filled passage is dotted with timeworn bungalows. Leafy trees spread over the alley. One bungalow particularly stands out with its sturdy round columns, clothed from top to bottom with unruly green creepers. The area resounds with the “main hoon main hoon” of peacocks. (You ought to answer these calls with “main bhi hoon main bhi hoon”).

Turn towards the so-called Top Wala Park (real name: Vijay Park)—its centrepiece is a battle tank. Make a “turn” or two in the garden (as they do in Jane Austen novels), then cross a barely busy road, and spend some aimless minutes at a lovely chai stall under a khirni tree. The air is filled with bird twittering, and peace truly comes dropping slow (as in Yeats’s poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree). The unnamed stall has been here for more than 20 years, and is run by an amiable couple, Parvati and Mahadev. They arrived in the city long ago from West Bengal’s Murshidabad, and their establishment was initially so profitable that they were able to marry their four daughters from its earnings, they say. The couple usually serves their tasty ginger-flavoured chai in china cups, not plastic wala glasses. Sometimes, a leaf from the tree above falls into the chai.

End the walk with Civil Line Walla. The informal eatery (no seating space) has the best chhole bhathure in this part of the megapolis.