City Hangout – Remembrance Benches, Outside National War Memorial
Living with new landmarks.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
New landmarks so easily become a part of city life that it’s hard to remember when they weren’t there.
Opened only a few weeks ago, the 40-acre National War Memorial is already getting entrenched in the minds of commuters passing through the India Gate Circle. Forever remembered are the 25,942 soldiers who perished in India’s wars since Independence. India Gate itself is a memorial built during the British Raj to commemorate soldiers in the British Indian Army who put down their lives during World War I. Despite being a recent appendage to a familiar setting, it will soon be difficult to imagine this part of the India Gate grounds without this memorial and its haunting remembrance walls, its fountains and metal fence.
Then there’s one of the most beautiful aspects of the memorial for which you don’t have to enter inside. These are the benches dispersed on the sidewalk along the perimeter of the memorial. They suggest a kind of dissimilarity between the living world hustling restlessly along the busy road, and the monuments to soldiers who died for the country.
This evening, the traffic is heavy and the road is a blur of cars and autos. A couple is walking inside the memorial, pausing beside the bust of a soldier, trying to read the inscription. They now move along towards another bust, and then another one. Meanwhile, it is getting darker. The quiet memorial is lit artistically and seems a world away from the road, which is a livelier blaze of headlights. While the lonesome benches seem to be occupying a kind of no man’s land separating the mortals from the martyrs. Perhaps the best place in the city to dwell upon those people whom you admire and are now no more.
Benches to remember the lost ones