City Home – A Fifth Floor Roof, Sukhdev Vihar
Seeing the city.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
If only you can sneak into this art gallery to visit the tapestry embroidered with a panorama of our city. At first, it looks merely a messy maze of roofs, balconies, windows, staircases. Moments later you notice the maheen detailing. The artist’s insertion of black and white pani ki tankis is particularly clever in evoking the everydayness of life. While the barely perceptible glimpses of citizens ensconced within their homes express urban solitariness as profoundly as any Edward Hopper.
This Delhi is more familiar to us than the Delhi of Instagram crammed with tombs, gardens and filtered sunset-selfies. Finally, an honest recreation with ho hum realities.
This however isn’t a gallery, but a private chhat (roof) perched atop a five-storey apartment complex in Sukhdev Vihar. And that is not a tapestry, but the real three-dimensional Masihgarh. These two south Delhi addresses are like conjoined twins claimed by contrasting destinies. The chhat effortlessly captures the polarity.
Look at the gentleman in the photo, looking at the cramped tree-less Masihgarh, If he turns around, he will face a totally different world. The spacious Sukhdev Vihar is all trees and parks. Its greenery so much more palpable from this altitude. (The season’s stunner has to be that gigantic mango tree, some blocks away, pimpled all over with unripened amiya.)
Surrounded by multifarious aspects of Delhi, the roof itself is vying to be Delhi’s best aspect. Surely an idyllic getaway for the winters: all day chit-chatting in the chhat, lobbing about the sun, not doing a hand’s turn, catching the sleeping sickness. The views though constantly jolt the senses into wakefulness. Even the far-off landmarks shimmer in reasonable clarity. This evening, the setting sun is stranded between the white Lotus Temple and the grey monolith of Okhla NSIC Metro station. The rest of the horizon is crisscrossed with multistories (Surya Hotel!), mobile phone towers and national flags. A metro train pierces through this still life, racing soundlessly on a straight line of elevated tracks.
A slight shift in the gaze changes the scenery. That’s the Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, beyond which lies the Jamia Millia Islamia University, beyond which is Jamia Nagar, beyond which flows the Yamuna, beyond which is Noida, where stands one of the tallest towers of Delhi region. The high-rise’s highest point is visible!
On descending the stairs, stepping out of the apartment, the city shrinks and Sukhdev Vihar looks as ordinary as the lonely brown dog ambling along the lane towards lMasihgarh.
World from the top