City Landmark – Barahpulla Drain, Mathura Road
Twilight in Delhi.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The water has turned pure gold. The departing sun is generously lending all its farewell glow to the stream. Occasionally, the self-contained placidity of the water is disturbed by the fleeting shadows of passing birds. The scenery looks divine—see photo.
But photos lie. The stream is a nallah, a drain, and has a strong stink. On watching it from the footpath of a bridge on Mathura Road, its waters look muddy in the plain noon light, but every evening the sunset’s roseate shade transforms this same dirty water into a thing ethereal — visually only, obviously. The twilight hour is the time to explore the drain that goes under the Barapullah flyover in central Delhi. As it turns out, there is more to the drain than its smelliness and twilight-time spectacle.
Take the cylindrical water pipe running across the stream, parallel to the bridge. There seems to be a hole in the pipe midway, and some of the water is spraying out from that point like a shower jet. An earthen pot is precariously perched on the pipe, beside the leak point. Is it somebody’s pot? How did it come up there? Whoever kept it there must have walked along the pipe like a trapeze artist. On another evening, a woman was seen taking a shower under that spray, while delicately perched on the pipe. And one morning, some months ago, a child was sitting on the mid-point of the long pipe, lost in thoughts. It had appeared that the little one might fall any moment intro the water. Before one could have done something, the child casually got up and walked along the length of the pipe as naturally as if he had been walking on a street.
A streak of pure white is splayed out on the drain’s garbage-filled bank. Enquiries reveal that it is a dhobi’s laundry, hung out to dry.
And then, in the evenings, there are other wonders. If instead of looking down at the drain, you look up, the interstice between the two flyover tracks — through which the sky peeks out — looks like a golden stream suspended in the air.
As the evening deepens, the water’s golden colour turns into an even deeper gold. And then it turns pink, and then the sun goes away, and soon the light of the sky disappears from the sky, and the water can no longer be seen. But can still be smelled.