City Hangout – District Park, Jasola
By a hospital.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The mere sight of a hospital stirs up our deepest fears. The world around it suddenly seems too carefree, its concerns flimsy.
That’s what makes Jasola District Park in south Delhi so extraordinary. It’s the only public garden in the city that exhibits the most panoramic view of a hospital. The entire hulking edifice of the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital spreads out across the length of the park’s northern boundary, beyond an impenetrable bank of trees. This evening, it is looming over like a mountain. For now, the hospital-facing side of the park is empty. It’s all trees and metallic benches — no humans.
The park is knitted into a finely trimmed patchwork of hedged gardens, crisscrossed with paved pathways. Each enclosure is peopled with only a few visitors, if at all. One bench hosts a formally dressed man talking agitatedly, and loudly, on his mobile — the word “thekedar” lingers momentarily, before dissolving into the air. Another bench has a pouting couple occupied in clicking a series of selfies. Some women elsewhere are pampering a child by decorating her long hair with freshly plucked flowers. While a guard in blue dress and lathi is sitting morosely by a central roundabout flooded with purple and white flowers.
An overland Metro track runs by the park’s west side. After every few minutes a train glides past with a whoosh sound, disrupting the silence. Soon this regular transgression acquires a lilting rhythm of music. Among the park’s other distractions, a visitor is bound to be struck by the scores of symmetrically positioned frangipani trees. The ground under each frangipani is carpeted with white flowers — from a distance they look like fresh snow.
Meanwhile, the part of the park that faces the hospital is no longer empty. A man is lounging alone on a bench. The hospital is so near, yet seems so remote. Is anybody inside watching the evening unfold in the park? Alternatively, who among the seemingly healthy visitors at this moment in the park might be fated to soon end up in a hospital — an inevitability for almost all of us. Such gloomy thoughts cloud the mind as night’s darkness gradually settles down in this unique space.
An escape with a twist