City Life – Barricade Trees, Sarojini Nagar
The city greens.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Hundreds of leaves here. All pitch black. After all, they are mere shadows. Shadows of the tree leaves falling on the metal bulwarks, the metal slow-heated by the day’s sun.
The area near Sarojini Nagar railway station is teeming with construction, and the building sites are barricaded with these protective, tall sheets of tin. While you cannot exactly see what is being built behind, the air is full of dust and sounds. All that you can perceive is the considerable number of leafy trees sneaking out through gaps in the barricades. Unlike the buildings that used to stand where these new edifices are coming up, these trees have not been felled. Special gaps have been made through the barricades to let them be, with their long branches leaning by the pave.
As our city furiously alters, and old buildings are erased for multistories, the megapolis has become an archipelago of such metal barricades. This is especially so in parts of south Delhi and Gurgaon. The most visible signs of former life in these places, during the critical period of transition, are these barricade trees. They are important. Most of the times we, ordinary citizens, have no direct say in the change being done to our city, but we can at least witness its subtle transitionary states — like these old trees poking out through makeshift barricades.
And nowhere this phenomenon is more visually striking than in the area around the aforementioned railway station. This afternoon, the trees coming out of these metal walls are not looking very real — more like a 3-D virtual reality installation. The barricades and the dust in fact seem more rooted to the soil of the place. Intenser are the trembling shadows of the trembling tree leaves on the barricade walls. One of the gigantic trees has its massive trunk coming out through a gap, and abruptly spreading into full splendour, like a Diwali cracker bursting into thousands of sparkles.
Suddenly the footpath is claimed by procession of men and women. Many are in yellow helmets and orange jackets. Labourers are returning to their work after the lunch break. Some look so young that, in an ideal world, they would walk on a college campus. One such boy, Mohit, in blue denim pants, has his name scrawled in blue on his helmet.
Soon, the pave again is empty. From a distance, the barricade trees look like long-necked zoo animals, helplessly looking out from their enclosures.
The trees of a changing city