City Moment – Candle Light Dinner in the Time of Pollution, South Delhi
The memorable instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It was late evening. A candle was flickering. Three men were sitting around the table with untouched glasses of white wine. A Bollywood song was playing on a laptop with a white cat lounging beside the speakers. The pale moon was glowing through the cold air though we could not spot any stars.
This south Delhi terrace seemed perfectly idyllic, except that the three men were wearing anti-pollution masks — surrounded by almost two hundred plants.
“Isn’t this terrible!” exclaimed one of them, “We looked at 30 apartments before finalising this one. Its USP is this lovely terrace, but now I fear we’ll seriously compromise our health if we do not move indoors.”
An expat from London and a migrant from Sitamarhi in Bihar live here in Uday Park. Both the men call each other “monkey”. The third person was a friend who often dines with them.
“We always eat in the terrace garden,” the man said. His Indian friend interjected, “Lekin ab ya to khana kha lein, ya phir mask pehen lein. (But now, we can either eat our meal or wear the mask.)”
As soon as the food was served, the masks were taken off and the daal-chawal meal was partaken over small talk.
The post-dinner routine here is to sit on a swing placed at the other end of the terrace.
Settling down on it, the London man, said, “Here we tell each other about our day… isn’t that so, monkey?”
The other man looked at the starless sky. Meanwhile, the anti-pollution masks lay forgotten on the table.
Pass the mask please