City History – Souvenir No. 1, In Search of Central Vista Lost
The place that was.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Delhi’s Rajpath and the India Gate Grounds are being renovated as part of the Central Vista project. The beloved place as we knew it will cease to exist, but it shall survive in my blog The Delhi Walla’s archives. Here’s one of the pieces I wrote on the place.
MONDAY morning rush hour has finally been surmounted, leaving the grassy expanse at India Gate nearly deserted.
Even so, a few guys are lounging about, so The Delhi Walla decides to check them out in the very best spirit of investigative journalism. What are they up to – or not up to – while the world is working?
The guy who studies
Anant Singh has a book open in front of it. He is jotting down formulas and equations on a notepad. A squirrel is running in circles around him. The young man is not noticing her. He is focused on the book.
Mr Singh says says it’s easier to study at India Gate instead of the shared flat in east Delhi’s Laskhmi Nagar. “Here, I can focus far better.”
He finished engineering last year at a college in Amritsar and is still without a job. Life feels uncertain. Mr Singh is now trying for sarkari naukri (government employment) “but I’m feeling tensed these days.”
Hailing from Bihar, he plans to just go on studying on his own until the tides turn.
The guy who stares
Sandeep Malhotra seems to be staring at nothing in particular, as if in deep thought. As a night shift security guard in nearby Connaught Place “I was headed back to my room in Kotla but decided to stop here.” Mr Malhotra says he often wanders the city after completing his shift.
“I don’t have friends here, so every morning after breakfast in the office canteen I set out to discover something new in Delhi.” He’s generally home by afternoon to catch a few hours’ sleep.
The guy who relaxes
Dev is supremely comfortable, with a water bottle as head rest and phone atop his tummy. His shirt is neatly folded beside him—he is in a white vest “I just want to relax for awhile,” he says, having recently arrived from Prataphgarh in Uttar Pradesh. Dev is living here in Delhi with relatives until finding a place of his own, “but before that, I’ve just got to get a job. Been trying too hard! “
In fact, Dev hasn’t turned up at India Gate just to lounge around but also to maybe find work right there, on the spot “I talked to a gardener here just a few minutes ago… he works here… but he says it’s not easy to get hired at the moment.”
Looking towards the traffic on the road, Dev says, “My wife and children are in the village… This is a big city… I’m sure I’ll soon find some work.”
The guy who contemplates
No sooner had Lokesh settled down at his work station when he suddenly felt unwell. It’s viral fever season, after all, so this computer operator decided to take the day off. The train from Delhi to his home in Faridabad won’t leave until afternoon so Lokesh has wandered onto these serene grounds to kill time – and contemplate. “India Gate is so famous,” he relates, “and I’m thinking about certain things in my life….”
Lokesh laughs. “That’s private! But, really, I’m quite content, even happy.”
The way we were