City Life – Tikona Park, Near Oberoi Hotel Flyover
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The concrete island beside the traffic light has been dug up, and the raw earth is now full of new trees, so young that their trunks look like mere stalks. Maybe, after some time, the area will have become a dense forest. If so, it shall be a most unlikely place for a jungle—this broad road divider near the Oberoi hotel flyover, where Lodhi Road intersects with Zakir Husain Road.
The trees were planted by the “sarkar (government)” just ten days ago, says Farooq, who runs a kebab stall nearby.
The road divider — popularly known as Tikona Park for its triangular shape — was a refuge for people without home. They had to quit the place to give way to these newly planted trees, explains the kebab seller. Many of them have moved to the adjacent flyover, he says, waving his arm.
During the day, and long into the evening, very many folks would sit here, alone or with friends or family. Some would carry on with the domestic routines of life, as if they were at home — picking lice from a loved one’s hair, for instance. In the evening, while the rush hour was going on on the road, the Tikona Park people would light up piles of wood, and cook their respective meals. The space didn’t appear to be a permanent housing arrangement however, for there would be days when the divider would be totally empty.
“All those men who were often there have jobs,” informs the aforementioned kebab seller. “Some are rickshaw pullers, some are kabadi wallas, some work as dishwashers in parties, and some are beggars.”
Over the years, this reporter encountered a variety of citizens on the Tikona Park. Every evening, trash recycler Sawan would come here to rest, smoking one Gopal beedi after another. Elderly beggar Noor Bano, with a paralysed left leg, would watch the passing cars. Rickshaw puller Mintu would hang out here with Lali, the dog who had lost one of her legs in a road mishap.
This afternoon, auto rickshaw driver Rafiq is standing between the new trees. “These are pilkhans. They grow very quickly.“
One late night, some years ago, on a similar road divider on the other side of the bridge, a man was lying on the otherwise empty floor. He pointed to a lamppost on the flyover, saying, it looked like a star to him. That road divider too is known as Tikona Park. It too has been dug up, and laid with new trees.
Life of a place