City Landmark – Bargad Tree, GB Road
Like a guard
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Like a conscientious guard, it stands rigid and upright at the starting point of GB Road, also known as Shradhanand Marg. The road is lined with shops that sell toilet fittings, and establishments of sex workers on their upper floors.
The tree is gigantic. Its swollen foliage has colonized both sides of the road, and its probing branches are touching the upper portions of the ramshackle buildings. Because of the tree’s massive scope, it is astonishing to discover that the great tree is miraculously growing out of something as insignificant and soilless as a road divider. The bulky trunk is sprouting out from deep within the concrete. The divider looks severely damaged, splintered and cracked across many places, no doubt severely strained by the force of the tree’s persistent expansion. The weight of the tree must be bearing down on the concrete with crushing force.
Whatever, the sight speaks an allegory for our city, which often feels as helpless and wrecked as the road divider, but which is also strong and gigantic, like the tree the damaged divider supports.
“It’s a bargad, look at those chotis (braids),” cries out Uber Ali, manning a handkerchief cart nearby. He waves his arm at the tree’s numerous aerial roots. Somebody’s pants-shirt is tied around one of them.
If one could climb to the higher point of the tree, they would see the grounds of the historic Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School, just across the road. From that altitude, one might even spot the facade of the New Delhi railway station, which is a five-minute-walk away. “I once climbed the tree,” Uber Ali says, claiming that one could even see the dome of the Jama Masjid.
Unlike the GB Road buildings, the bargad is free of defacements, except for a flier glued to its trunk: “The only solution to sex problems is consultation. Come at once to Al Taz Dawa Khana, established 1835.”
Some steps away, deeper into GB Road, a peepal tree stands. The tip of one of its longer branches is almost touching the bargad. The two trees are looking like lovers on side-by-side balconies, wanting to hold hands, but failing.