City Hangout – Winter Light, Deer Park
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The sunbeams spill apart as soon as they crash on the tree leaves. The dispersed bits of beams then drizzle down through the dense foliage, and fall on the dusty lane, dispersing further, but retaining their straight lines. The consequence is magical. The lane no longer looks a lane. It has instead transposed into a stream shimmering with wavelets of lights and shadows. The phenomenon can be more effectively perceived by our plain eyes, than by a phone’s camera lens.
This walking track in south Delhi’s Deer Park is straight and narrow, but turns sublime at around 4, during clear winter evenings. It is actually extraordinary at all times of the day—lined almost entirely on both sides with leafy trees, giving the walkway the feel of a tunnel, as it cuts through the center of a large lawn. If seen from a distant perspective, this shaded aisle evokes the iconic black-and-white photo of a tree-lined road snapped long ago in the French countryside by the great Henri Cartier-Bresson (google “Brie, 1968”).
Right now—it’s half past four—the pathway is splashed with irregular bands of light. Truth be told, this isn’t among Deer Park’s top attractions, which happen to be its lake (plus its ducks), its many monuments, its lush pilkhan trees, and its deers (they live in a large enclosure in another side of the park). In fact, the pathway rarely gets crowded, and is even ignored by the park’s many monkeys.
In contrast to the silence in the lane, the grassy lawn on either side is thriving with human hubbub. A young couple is locked in a tight embrace; a woman is performing Urdhvamukhasvanasana; a man in wooden topi is watching a YouTube video on his mobile, and a child, presumably his son, is jumping playfully, his musical shoes making a pat-pat sound. While a nearby bench is under attack by the sun’s direct rays. And there is lot of bird chatter, too.
Now, a jogger appears on the pathway, her shoes are raising brick-red dust from the ground. This dust disturbs the shimmy flow of the winter light, but briefly.