City Hangout – Shri Shakti Raj Park, Lajpat Nagar
The Lajpat nobody knows.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Begin, Muse, this poem to commerce. Sing it aloud, the way Homer chanted the names of ships and warriors of the Achaean army: Keshika Creations, Lucy Beauty Parlour, Apna Bazar, Simran, Andaaz, K.C. Son’s, Shyamji Footwear, Tara, Apsara Exclusif, R.K. Cosmetics, Guru Nanak Fabrics, Dipali, Mehta Wool Co., S.B. Collections, Chaudhary Collection, Luthra Jeans, Tessuto, Just Lady, Vedanshi Fashion, Tina Bazar, Sai Textile, Dhanraj Ayurvedic Medicines, Chhabra Emporium, Mast Kala (“entry from back side”), Mangal Mart, Khushbu Handlooms, Top Selection, S.K. Textiles, Rajpriya Saree Emporium, Narang Sons, Incense Gowns, Roopsaaz, Kasak Hair Accessories, Dayal Handlooms.
These are the shops circling us. Here in Lajpat Nagar Central Market. Here we bargain for the wedding lehengas and the wedding sherwanis, for the saris to gift to the dulhan’s family and the saris to give to the dulha’s family. And while shuttling between the shops, we pause by a street stall or two for a plate of gobhi manchurian or for an icy stick of kala khatta chuski.
And nestled within these familiarities lies a lesser-known Lajpat. Right here in the center of the Central Market. Surrounded by shops on all sides, this park exudes utmost shanti at all times of the bazar’s noisy chaotic day. Reader, do not sneer. Shri Shakti Raj Park is truly exceptional. Spotting this grassy Innisfree in such a claustrophobic setting slaps the senses into a pleasant mood. This afternoon, each of the four benches are claimed by a mobile phone loner. If only these people look up at the park’s pilkhan. So grand, so graceful. The trunk, double the size of Connaught Place’s colonial-era columns. The leafy canopy, like a forest; and so huge that it leans over half of the park. The tree stands like an elegy to the area’s long-ago wilderness when it must have been thick with similarly gigantic pilkhans, peepals, bargards. The feeling of loss fades as you take turns in the garden, more thrilling than a stroll in the sprawling Lodhi Gardens (simply because this open space is so tiny, as if it could be swallowed by the bazar any moment).
Suddenly a blinding white glare springs out from within the tall dewy blades of grass. It is an earring, unusually large, the glossy surface reflecting the bright sunshine. Somebody must have walked over this very spot, accidentally dropping behind a souvenir of their visit.