Mission Delhi – Smita Babar, Sunder Nursery
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[By Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s evening and she is sitting alone by the lake in Sunder Nursery with a coffee mug by her side. Architect and urban conservationist Smita Babar, 32, graciously allows herself to be snapped. The next day, on e-mail, she answers a few questions about her solitary rambles in the city.
What were you doing by the lake?
I was trying to get in touch with my feelings. Being in the present moment is a challenge for many of us and we don’t even realise it. Coming close to the nature helps me with it.
What did you do for the rest of the evening in the park?
After finishing my coffee I looked at the sky for some time, stared at the lake and tried to be compassionate towards myself. Then I listened to the two songs of Nelly Furtado on loop—Island of wonder and Say it right. Afterwards, I took some pictures and videos of the lake. The phone was used only to take pictures and videos, to listen to songs and to write down my thoughts. I had turned off the internet to be at peace. After some time I sat at some other place by the lake, until it got dark.
Don’t you feel weird hanging out all by yourself?
I find it normal to sit at a cafe alone and enjoy my coffee. But when it comes to dining at a restaurant, the servers very often come across to be extra-sweet and extra-polite with me. They try harder to make me more comfortable and to make sure that I am served well. I’m not sure it is because of respect or pity they feel towards me for being alone or it is just good old chivalry. I’ve experienced this even at a small eatery in Nizamuddin where I was the only female customer relishing nalli nihari and khamiri roti. I also observe that very often women, who are dining with their families, look at me with awe and I can tell that they are wondering why am I sitting alone. I even get a sense that some of the women are envying my freedom of being able to sit at a restaurant and enjoy a meal by myself.
How often you go out all by yourself in the city?
I take myself out on a date once a month. I dress up and treat myself at one of the wonderful places I keep adding to my ‘to visit’ list. I love walking around Green Park Market and Connaught Place at different times of the day.
When people are alone, they often hum a song without probably even realising it.
I don’t hum or sing to myself casually. I am a trained classical singer.
[This is the 445th portrait of Mission Delhi project]