City Walk – World-Class Sidewalk, Aurobindo Marg
Footpath no. 1.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Come alone. You wouldn’t want a friend to see you gushing over a footpath.
But then this redeveloped footpath is so tiptop. True, Gurgaon boasts a set of three new-age flamboyantly green foot-over bridges for pedestrians, near Cyberhub, but even they are not close to this stretch in south Delhi. It has been face-lifted by the PWD (Public Works Department) as part of Delhi government’s pilot street-scaping project.
The path runs along a side of Aurobindo Marg. It starts from Devender Tea Stall, at the point where Aurobindo Market ends, and unspools southwards to a stroll of ten minutes, ending with a neem tree, not far from the IIT flyover. With a width of 20 footsteps at its broadest, the pave of the path is laid with many materials—cobbled, tiled etc.—making it a tapestry of various textures.
Both sides of the path are thickly green. Some grass is allowed to go a tad wild, while the clipped hedges look as disciplined as any marching troupe on the Republic Day parade. The very many benches are shaped like drawing room sofas.
This afternoon, the traffic on the road is predictably noisy but the pathway is feeling aloof, as if it were a bubble unaffected by hard realities. Much like the life the people might be leading in the posh bungalows of the nearby Safdarjung Development Area.
A young woman walks by, wearing huge headphones. She goes past pavement barber Sudhir Thakur’s stall, perched on the other side of the hedge, just outside the limits of the fancy footpath. He informs that it was redeveloped two months ago. His customer, whose face is covered in shave foam, gives the thumbs-up.
Further ahead, safai worker June is sweeping away the fallen leaves. He says that the track gets cleaned twice a day. His must be an exhausting job, for the cleaning includes taking care of the walkway’s many installations. One consists of yellow and red prayer wheels, like the ones in Buddhist monasteries; only here they are mounted between puffy clouds, rendered in metal. Another exhibit has giant phikris, a metallic recreation of paper wheels sold by street hawkers.
Meanwhile, college students Sapna and Beauty are snapping each other’s photos by a blue wall riddled with as many (decorative) holes as a Swiss cheese. Just then a young man in orange passes by, almost dancing. His arms are lifted mid-air, as if he were the love-sick SRK in DDLJ.
This new-look Delhi is the best thing this season.
A walk in the clouds