City Hangout – Love Song Crooners, Lodhi Garden
Music in twilight.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Can you hear? Here comes one of these songs again. The ones about love and heartbreak. The singer’s voice is tinged with ache and is getting shriller with the heightened passions of the lyrics.
Isn’t he the famous Arjit Singh, the Hindi film playback singer?
He’s not, but every evening in Lodhi Garden, a band of young men are heard singing romantic Hindi film numbers, especially of the Arjit Singh repertoire. They gather inside the Sheesh Gumbad tomb, where the songs echo off the stone walls of the centuries-old monument, and waft over the surrounding greens like ripples in water. The strings of guitars and the mood of songs might annoy a Lodhi Garden conservative trying to focus on flowers and birds. But for others among us, less rigid and more manipulatable, these love songs can enter like a pang in the heart.
The twilight moments are the most affecting, because the sun sets exactly behind the monument. So, as the evening sky is streamed with translucent gold, and the bats are flying overhead, and everything is turning slightly darker, a ditty on heart’s betrayals can affect even those walking around with their faithful lovers.
This evening, however, the band is sitting outside the tomb, on the grassy slope. It turns out that they are longtime friends, who come from different parts of the city and have been hanging out here for years. Rahul and Salman come from Paharganj, Feroze and Zaid come from Nizamuddin Basti, Aggy come from South Extension and Honey come from Madangir. Some of them have jobs, others are enrolled in colleges. “We head here daily and play songs because it gives us sakoon (calmness),” says Rahul. The others say that passers-by often compliment them for their singing. “We can sing all kinds of tunes, but the garden is so romantic that we usually stick to romantic songs — and not only by Arijit Singh.”
And now they start again. This time it is… but the song doesn’t matter as much as the atmosphere. The garden’s gathering darkness, people quietly exercising on the grass, folks perched on benches, the somber monuments and the air filled with haunting love-lorn melodies.
The men usually play from 5 pm to 8 pm.
Pangs in the park