City Walk – 5 am Stroll, Baba Kharak Singh Marg
Early morn world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There’s something surreal about cold season mornings when the dark light feels like midnight. The clock just struck about five. The November air is veiled in mistiness. Or is that smog? Nevertheless, even if it is pollution, the scene is looking beautiful as if you have entered inside an abstract painting.
The early morning walk on central Delhi’s Baba Kharak Singh Marg is capable of invoking such surrealism. Start the stroll from the Gol Dak Khana traffic crossing. The spires of the colonial-era Sacred Heart Cathedral are still shrouded in semi-darkness. A wheel-chaired citizen is sound asleep near the cathedral gates, his head plopped on the arm rest. While another gentleman walks past indifferently, dressed in a pants-suit and carrying a bouquet for some reason. He disappears like an apparition. Another figure is slumped on the footpath by the cathedral’s fence. Covered in a blanket, he is talking in his sleep. The entire setting is evocative of big city loneliness.
The feeling of despondency is immediately dispelled across the road where the dome of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib is bathed in bright light. In the dark starless sky, it looks like a holy man’s halo. The gurdwara’s white marble entrance is teeming with early morning devotees who’ve sauntered past scores of homeless men still sleeping or lounging along the pavement.
A few paces ahead, the red sandstone Irwin Road Masjid is submerged in quietude. (The mosque’s name indicates Baba Kharak Singh Marg’s original colonial-era name).
Further along, the Hanuman Mandir is already a busy place where the day’s first aarti commence at 5:30 am. The sound of bells and cymbals is wafting out towards the road like a placid sea wave on the beach.
And now you step into Connaught Place shopping district, at first glance as lifeless as a graveyard. But wait. There’s a small crowd gathering at Jain Chawal Wale—an eatery in Shivaji Stadium bus terminus already serving up a full-fledged meal of steamy hot rajma chawal with freshly-fried papad. An unusual choice of breakfast but sufficiently tempting to conclude the walk.
The world afresh