City Hangout – Secretive Garden, Outer Ring Road
A place for the invisibles.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Quietness is the reigning monarch here. Greenery is entwined with solitude. Squirrels are frolicking about. Marooned in isolation, this secretive tree-filled place feels detached from all the news of the world.
But gradually you notice them, the people, looking like an extension of the patchy grass they’re lying on, here and there.
This expanse runs for a brief distance along the Outer Ring Road, just outside the Vir Bhoomi memorial of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, here in central Delhi. It is arguably among the most surreal garden-spaces in the capital. This afternoon at least the place is shedding vibes of utter remoteness—although it is right in the city’s heart, close to the Yamuna river.
A bare chested man is dozing off on the grass, his shirt heaped up beside him. Some men are lying towards the pavement (see photo), maybe because much of the ground is still wet due to yesterday’s showers. Not far away another man is covered in a muddy-white chaadar. There are quite a few other folks too. All are men, and all are still, like statues. Only one man seems to be awake. He is lying flat with his hand under his head, his eyes open. None of these loners is holding onto any possession—no bag or briefcase, let alone a lunch packet.
Sone minutes later, one of the men gets up and walks towards the road. Looking passively at the traffic, he informs that most folks here, including himself, are without a home. “I walk around looking for work and money and food, and when I get tired I sometimes come to this ghaas-phoos (greenery) to pass the samay (time).” Nobody sleeps here at night, he says.
Later, the man walks back and sits on the grass. And again freezes into motionlessness.
The setting is filled with a sense of despair, but as these lonesome souls lie here in rest, the garden appears cloaked in empathy. Here one senses a kinder aspect of our huge city where it appears to be welcoming to our fellow citizens who otherwise tend to be hidden from plain sight.
A necessary space