City Hangout – The Lawns, Redeveloped Central Vista
First day in the new Central Vista.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The grass is thick, green and humid. The air is steamy with late afternoon heat.
The lawns fall between Man Singh Road and Janpath Road: trees are spread across the ground in neat rows, like the train coaches of an express. Squirrels are racing one after the other along the trunks. Crows cannot be seen but they are crowing incessantly.
Nobody is allowed to walk on the grass. The lawns are crisscrossed by broad walkways of stone tiles. The blue-uniformed guards occasionally run along the lawns, pleading the citizens to stay away from the “new grass.” Not that there is much crowd at the moment. A couple is sitting by a lakeside bench, looking as melancholic as any couple in such a setting. Once the new Vista will have lived through a few seasons, and entered into the bloodstream of Delhi people, the city loners will probably be walking sombrely on these tiled tracks, their head down, their hands held in their back.
Now, a family passes by with kids eager to see the fish in the lake (they see no fish).
Now, an elderly woman in salwar suit surfaces. Sajeet Kaur is in her 80s and lives in Sultanpuri. Though born in Amritsar, she has spent almost all her life in Delhi. It is her first visit to the India Gate grounds, her grandson says while holding her hand. The family wasn’t meaning to visit the Central Vista, that too on its special first day. “It just happened,” says the grandson. They had come to make a pilgrimage to Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, nearby. “And so we decided to show India Gate to Amma.” But the lady is feeling tired. She steps into the grass and sits down. Moments later a guard runs towards them and politely directs them to a lakeside bench some steps away. Sajeet Kaur gets up. The family decides to go back home. “I will see India Gate some other day,” the venerable “Amma” says in Punjabi.
Walking in the lawns