City Hangout – Public Park, Greater Kailash II
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A huge tree with thousands of leaves. And another tree, dissimilar in the shape of its leaves and the fanning of its branches, but similar in grandness. Then another such tree. Another. Another. And more. Some trees are easily identifiable—neem, bargad, ashok, peepal. Some are not.
This little park ought to be the only one of its kind in the Delhi-NCR. The almost-forest is tucked —most unexpectedly—inside a bazar. It stands within the M Block Market in south Delhi’s Greater Kailash II.
This sweltering June afternoon, the market lanes are parked with long gleaming cars, their painted metal reflecting off the sun’s blinding glare. The glass walls of the cafés and restaurants show the customers inside, looking so disconnected from the prickly summer heat—no doubt because of the air-conditioners.
On entering the park, you spot a series of men, a few women too. Some are lying on the grass, some are sitting on the benches. Each person is paired with a tree. One man under a neem is yelling into his mobile; the loud voice mixing in with the repeated cawing of a crow. While “tyre puncture mechanic” Anil Kumar is quietly lying flat on the grass between two neembu trees.
Giant trees adorn other parks too. Lodhi Garden, Kamla Nehru Park in Gurugram, etc. But those places are huge with sprawling lawns bordered by dainty flowers beds. Here, the park is much smaller, but wilder, and the trees are clustered like bunk beds in any Paharganj backpackers” hostel. One stately banyan is so massive that it instantly impresses an unsuspecting visitor into utter speechlessness. This moment, cab driver Pooran is napping under the bargad’s shade, and watch repairer Paras (he runs a stall nearby) is gazing at its aerial roots. See last photo. Indeed, the most thrilling aspect of this miniature jungle is that it gives an intense feel of escape from our urban anxieties, despite being surrounded by showrooms, shoppers and traffic jams. Even the heatwave within the park is trying to behave somewhat reasonably. Right now the mobile phone says the temperature “feels like” 42. Yet, the sun isn’t feeling as unfriendly, twinkling through a tree’s bulky greenness.
On exiting, look out for a tree along the car parking row, directly opposite a “pet store & spa.” It too is magnificent.