City Walk – Main Avenue, CR Park
The Bengal country.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The men look carefree, playing cards by the pavement. The vegetable seller is napping by his cart. A balloon hawker is slowly dragging his bicycle and the helium balloons, tied to the handle bar, are bobbing in the air. A woman walks past purposefully, wearing her sari in the Bengali style.
Strolling in south Delhi’s CR Park’s main avenue instantly transports you into an upscale Kolkata neighbourhood. More intense is the neighbourhood’s gentle rhythm. Everything feels unhurried, like ripples spreading slowly through a pond, whose water surface patiently absorbs all minor disturbances.
A part of the road is lined with bungalows, each with its distinct individuality, as if harbouring its own Netflix series. Some of these houses are dated enough to exhibit an old-fashioned architecture—simple balconies and windows, with a small porch. These were a common sight in many Delhi neighbourhoods, but most such houses have been replaced by swish apartment complexes, or modern bungalows with designs so universal that they belong to every place and to no place in particular. CR Park still has a few of these well-maintained relics.
No walk here will be fulfilling without a diversion into the so-called Market no. 1. Apart from its famous fish stalls, it has a carom board club, a chai shop with a little temple fixed to the wall, and an establishment with a name that pulsates with history—East Bengal Halal & Mutton Chicken shop, with the Indian flag painted on the banner. Also check out Apsara Blouse, a shop decked with dozens of sari blouses of all shades.
The road ahead passes by a public park and lunch stalls, with the tables set on the footpath, like in a European city. This afternoon though the biggest crowd is in front of the Kolkata Special Jhalmuri Stall (yummy!).
Across the road, in one of the houses, a woman is standing on her balcony; her hair, white and long, is flowing picturesquely in the breeze.
The walk ends at Kali Mandir. A masked woman is sitting by a banner printed with the temple’s Covid-era instructions of “no prasad, no shanti jal, no vermillion, no bhog, no offering and no meditation.”
The Calcutta languor