City Hangout – Deer Park, Hauz Khas
An iconic park’s profound alteration.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It will soon be a civilisation gone with the wind. The iconic Deer Park in Delhi’s Hauz Khas is set to completely turn around its character. The number of park’s deers have grown to 600, and the authorities have decided to “translocate” them into the jungles of Rajasthan and Delhi.
And Deer Park will have no deers.
This muggy morning, they are still milling about in their sprawling enclosure, but are difficult to spot. The entire boundary is screened off by green nets. These were put up two weeks back, a gardener informs, complaining that visitors would irritate the animals by tossing food stuff or worse, stones, at them. Even so, the deers are faintly visible through the see-through fabric—looking calm, probably enjoying their invisibility from pesky humans. Their release into the forests, with all the accompanying freedoms and dangers, might be no loss to them. Though some of these poor deers will be dispatched to the capital’s Asola-Bhati Wildlife Sanctuary as potential prey for the leopards there!
The absence of the deers might not be much loss for us either. The long track winding about their enclosure seldom gets crowded. Most visitors drift to “Batakh Talab,” the nearby duck pond. Besides, the enclosure is not instantly accessible. The path stretches along grassy slopes dotted with picturesque lodges marked “Hog Deer Cabin” and “Black Buck Cabin.” After which, a left turn, some more walking, and only then you come face-to-face with a painted warning not to feed the deers—see photo (also seen: labourers Neeraj and Gaurishankar). The park is actually a “Mini Zoo” set up in 1988–informs a giant signage (its recognition as zoo has been cancelled by the Central Zoo Authority).
Whatever, today these deers are looking so precious, now when we know that they won’t be here for long. Gazing at them is meditative. Some are huddling quietly in pairs, others are wandering around serenely. A giant buck has antlers covered in wild grass, akin to a crown. It is like watching a silent wildlife movie.
After the departure of the deers, Deer Park will still be open to citizens, confirms the Delhi Development Authority. One might then only have to remove “deer” from the garden’s full name: AN Jha Deer Park. Or, here’s another option. Since the garden has always sheltered romantic couples running away from the city’s prying eyes, it can be rightly renamed to Dear Park.