City Hangout – Bougainvillea Aesthetics, Barakhamba Road
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It takes a bougainvillea to raise a city. That’s what one feels on witnessing the magical scene of a Connaught Place high-rise emanating from the flower pot of a pink bougainvillea.
This illusion is caused by the combined effect of the night, the lights of the street lamps, the long row of the pavement trees, the lit-up building itself and the black starless sky. The bougainvillea pot is placed on the road divider in central Delhi’s Barakhamba Road, and the building is the distinctive Statesman House.
The late night sight is incredibly surreal. The entire length of the road divider is in fact decked with pots containing the bougainvilleas. Many are pink, but some are white too.
Bougainvilleas are well-suited to a rough-and-tough metropolis like Delhi. These scentless flowers might look fragile, but are able to thrive in the most adverse conditions of heat, smog, and dust—a fact confirmed by PK Tripathi, a member of the esteemed Delhi-based Bougainvillea Society of India. They are usually seen on the city footpaths as shrubberies hanging about boundary walls, growing in a wild abundance, impervious to any semblance of order. So here it is unusual to see the flowers arranged so carefully, in a neat row of pots, by the New Delhi Municipal Council (introduced a month ago before the coronavirus triggered lockdown).
At night the pink petals, especially, seem to glow. As the headlights of a passing car falls on the flowers, the pink shine is instantly lost, dissolving into the brighter blinding light that has fallen on them. But the car goes away and the pink radiance returns.
Tonight, a bunch of commuters are standing about a bus stop. They are all in mask, all busy with their mobiles. Nobody is noticing the row of bougainvilleas. Now a young man crosses the road from the other side. On stepping into the divider, he pauses behind one of the plants and curiously gazes upon a thicket of these flowers. He seems absorbed. The spell is broken within moments as he leaves the divider and crosses over to the other side.
You must come to cherish these bougainvillea. Detached from their more natural settings, they look poignant and otherworldly.
Road divider consolations