City Monument – Metcalfe’s Folly, Mehrauli Archaeological Park
A soul-stirring ruin.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One dreamy ruin that you must visit when in love is the Metcalfe’s Folly in Mehrauli Archaeological Park, that deliciously dense jumble of trees, graves, and domes in south Delhi.
On the peak of a grassy mound stands a stone canopy built in 1850s by Charles Metcalfe, an Indophile British, as a ‘folly’. The folly was a very British thing, a new building meant to look like old and to be viewed in a picturesque landscape.
In itself, Metcalfe’s hexagonal structure is unremarkable. The columns are minimally carved; the semi-circular arches are not ornamental, the surface is cobbled. It is the folly’s lighthouse setting — commanding a view of the towering Qutub Minar, the lovely Jamai Kamali mosque and the rolling greenscape — that soak your senses with overwhelming passions.
Arousing special, clandestine, buried sentiments, the seemingly insignificant ruins have great emotional potential. The softened stones, the abandoned state, the raw elements work together to cloak you with a sudden rush of feeling. Images from your past, voices of lost friends, and other awakened memories contribute to the ruin’s effect on you. It is tough to figure out why you have been so moved by an old decrepit structure. There is a reason that why most people never say, “I like that ruin.” It’s always, “I love that ruin.”
The afternoon hours are the best time to visit the folly, especially if you are planning a date. Then the few people who are around have come to seek solitude and so won’t bother you. There is an orange-coloured bench just below the folly, and unknown tombs towards the Jama Kamali mosque on which squirrels play their catch-me-if-you-can game. The most inviting is the slope’s trimmed grass. You may be tempted to lie down and kiss your lover’s lips, or continue with the unreadable Marcel Proust or listen to Kishore Kumar songs on your iPod.
Sometimes the slope is invaded by grazing cows. Watching the crows coming to sit on their humps, you may wonder, “God, am I really in Delhi?”
One charm of urban havens, which a jungle resort lacks, is to experience the petrol-powered din of a city being tuned into a comforting hum. Metcalfe’s Folly looks to the wild but the continuous roar of the flying planes make it clear that an airport is nearby. The highway is a stone’s throw away. Don’t despair. The rumble of a DTC bus has a place here as vital as that of bird sounds. After emerging out of Metcalfe’s Folly into Mehrauli-Gurgaon highway, you will love the city more. Promise.
In itself, unremarkable
Look at the setting
The wild life
The Qutub view
The Jamali Kamali mosque
Another Jamali Kamali view
Like a dream
This too is dream