City Hangout – Winter Evening’s Lodhi Garden, Central Delhi
Beauty in the smog.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Catch a glimpse of red lava smouldering atop a distant volcano. Well, it’s just a reflection of the evening sky on a pond. This breathtaking view, as seen from a Mughal-era stone bridge, is on exhibit throughout the year at Lodhi Garden. So are the park’s centuries-old monuments, flower hedges, trees, birds, dogs and VIPs.
But there is one incredibly beautiful aspect of Lodhi Garden experienced only at a certain time of the day – and only in winters – when the air becomes partly hazy with smog or mist.
The scenes appear to have been processed with Instagram filters. Visit after sundown, when the place starts getting shrouded in darkness, and you’ll see that only a few spots here and there are lit up by strategically placed lamps. The uneven spread of these lights turns the surroundings into a mystical vista of shadows.
Take this 7pm setting, for instance. The trees look like giant joggers frozen in mid-movement, their innards splintered into a geometry of light and nothingness. Some of the grassy patches along the ground, nearer to the lamp posts, are lit up in faint orange. The wetness of the mist is making the grass glisten. Strolling by the pond is an even more disconcerting sight – the water appears to be on fire.
Further along, a white-haired woman in pants and a shawl is walking slowly down a darkened pathway. She is wearing a silk scarf in French style. Suddenly, she steps into a small pool of light cast by one of the lamps. The woman walks on unconcernedly and re-enters the darkness. It is like watching a painting in which the figure briefly moved.
On the other side of the garden, a ram laddu seller, Rajpal, is silently standing by his makeshift wooden stand. He is as still as the gigantic monument behind him.
Some steps away, a lush tree is spreading its wide shadow across the ground. A shaft of golden lamplight boldly enters the black space and disappears some steps later, as if swallowed by a void.
Believe it or not, this cold smoggy evening, Lodhi Garden isn’t at all feeling like the Lodhi Garden we know.
Our mystical Lodhi