City Walk - Rajpur Road & Environs, Civil Lines

City Walk – Rajpur Road & Environs, Civil Lines

ity Walk – Rajpur Road & Environs, Civil Lines

Into serene avenues.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The gate is locked. The tree-speckled compound is strewn with dry crackling leaves. The lone man in the stately porch, a guard maybe, makes no answer. Peering over the rusted spokes of the gate it is clear that the bungalow is uninhabited. The arched portals gape forlorn (see photo).

This is a surreal scene on Rajpur Road, in north Delhi’s Civil Lines. You ought to consider a long leisurely walk in the precincts primarily to study the bungalow’s dilapidated dignity—not by encroaching into the private space, but by strolling along the pave that goes past the relic. More distractions exist elsewhere in the vicinity, including many other bungalows, excellently preserved. Then there are casually revealing glimpses into the discreet aspirations of the locals, such as a tree bearing a banner for “online English conversation classes for housewives, students and working people.”

Rajpur Road and its nearby avenues are swathed in affluent serenity. Not much traffic this evening. Too many monkeys though. They line the roadside, they sit atop the walls, they dangle from the trees. They fearlessly cross the road.

The monkeys are much less along the adjacent avenue, the curiously named Under Hill Road. Deeper along the road stands a remarkable tree, sheltering a tea stall and a barber’s stall. This moment, an auto rickshaw is parked under the tree. The driver in the customary grey uniform is chatting with a fruit seller in a summer-friendly lungi, who too has parked his cart under the same tree. Harbouring a distinct social ecosystem, the tree has created a neighbourhood of its own.

Some turns later, the road wends into Shamnath Marg. The pavement here is lined with a dozen rickshaws parked along a long row, the rickshaw pullers silently awaiting customers. The stretch overlooks the iconic Exchange Stores (Connaught Place’s legendary Wenger’s Cake Shop was opened here by a Swiss couple in the 1920s). After leaving behind an all-white heritage hotel, a park, a warrior king’s statue, the stretch ends into a madly busy road across which the Kashmere Gate metro station lies like a giant whale sunbathing on the beach. The sight instantly summons up the tumultuous modernity of contemporary Delhi, breaking the moody old-world spell sparked by the Rajpur Road bungalow.