City Life – Bougainvillea Pavement, Chelmsford Road
Losses and gains.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The long drought has ended. The world is pink again, to an extent.
This pavement section on a Chelmsford Road lane was among Delhi’s most beautiful spots due to a lush colony of bougainvillea. The flowers used to bloom profusely around this time of the year, and always made a more forceful impact on the viewer than the iconic bougainvillea trees of Lodhi Garden. Simply because it is never shocking to discover beautiful flowers growing in a beautiful garden, but it is always shocking to discover beautiful flowers growing in a dull, dusty, unremarkable place.
The bougainvilleas here originate from within a restricted property, but they bend over the formidable boundary wall, lending their beauty to the public pavement instead. The flowers were stubbornly absent for three years. During the intervening period, the place looked soulless.
This afternoon, a man is sleeping on the pave, under the shade of the pink flowers. But something is missing, and not only the denser foliage of times past. Oh yes, a barber’s stall used to be right under the canopy of this bougainvillea. It was Muhammed Isthiaq’s establishment, founded 40 years ago by his father, the late Muhammed Ishaq. The soft-spoken barber would assert that the stall preceded the pavement’s bougainvilleas.
Today, no passerby could say anything about the missing barber’s stall. It appears to be gone permanently.
Years ago, on a breezy afternoon, the bougainvillea petals were falling nonstop from their branches; two landed into Ishtiaq’s shaving bowl on which a pair of scissors and a razor lay crossed.
Another dreary dusty place that comes alive with the pink bougainvillea these days lies across the Delhi border — along a stretch near plot no. 100 in Sector 35, Udyog Vihar. The rutty Gurgram road is lined with keekar trees, which redeem their scragginess to some extent by being dandruffed with clusters of bougainvillea bushes. On sunny afternoons, the flowers look almost red. Sadly, the beautiful roadside is exploited as an informal car park by app-based cabs. A driver was once spotted urinating on a bougainvillea bush.
Meanwhile, on the Chelmsford Road pave, a papery bougainvillea petal noiselessly drifts down, landing close to the bare feet of the sleeping man.