Friday, November 14, 2008

Une Visite Au Monument Historique

I'm back to Delhi. Another semester has ended for us in NALSAR, which means I'm closer to getting out of it. This is reason for joy.

While in Delhi, I'm doing what I usually do, which is going around the place again and again. The fact that I'm working in the Supreme Court means, too, that I get a lot of time to randomly explore the place. I love going to parts of Delhi that just sound interesting... Park Street, Kishenganj, Sabzi Mandi, Laddu Ghaati, Anarkali (The one in Delhi)... they're all grist to my mill.

Today, I was with a friend from Bombay, who wished to see North Delhi. Now, I'm not really familiar with North Delhi (Note: Delhi has geographical boundaries that coincide with cultural boundaries), and so I decided to explore it with him. We took the Metro upto Vishwavidyalaya, and then I showed him the University and Kamala Nagar.

After showing him around both these places, I realised I had no idea what to show him. The rest of North Delhi I'd seen were localities which were either totally residential (Mukherji Nagar, Model Town and Pratap Nagar), or had associations that were purely personal (Sabzi Mandi, Roshanara Bagh and Mutiny Memorial Road). What could one do then?

Suddenly, I remembered fragments from the City of Djinns, which had talked about the Coronation Park, where King George V announced the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. We decided to visit it. So far, so good.

I remembered it had been somewhere close to some road called Bhai Parmanand Marg, and thus got into an auto. Unfortunately, the auto-driver had no idea where it was. With more valour than discretion, we decided to go. I suggested Adarsh Nagar as a possible starting point. Hm.

So we reached Adarsh Nagar, which is a middle-class locality on the outskirts of Delhi, and began asking for directions. With increasing dismay, we realised that nobody had _any_ idea where the bloody park was. Efforts to describe the park met with blank looks, until finally we decided that this wasn't going anywhere, and went to an internet cafe to find out the location. Bombay boy decided to search, and found directions. Unfortunately, he promptly forgot them immediately after he left! Confusion ensued, and tempers flared.

Finally, we asked a bookshop owner for directions, hoping he'd know. As it turned out, Bombay Boy's description of the 'Putle Waala Park' jogged his memory, and he gave us directions. He also advised us to hire a Rickshaw. We set on forward, hoping that we'd reach soon. Alas, our tale was not over.

After passing through some of the most godforsakenly empty parts of Delhi, we realised we had turned into some Nirankari Sangh Sammelan. While inquiries elicited the response that we WERE on the right track for the 'Kaarnesan Morial', we found our way blocked by a set of buses from the Punjabi, with vomit still dripping from the sides. "Pooh", we exclaimed, and determinedly, (if slightly tired) continued on our walk. Finally, we reached the Car Park for the Sammelan, behind which, faintly, an Obelisk was visible. Eureka! Our destination.

To the left of the Obelisk stood a little unkempt park, full of pedestals, only six of which were surmounted by statues. King George stood there, very self-consciously regal. So did Sir John Jenkins, Lord Dalhousie and a few other notables of times past. They were surrounded by unkempt vegetation, a little hut, and little else. High-ish walls, painted that peculiar shade of Municipal Orange, enclosed the place.

I was reminded of Kipling's Recessional, in particular the lines:

"Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!"

To think that these statues had graced the main roundabouts of Lutyen's Delhi not so long back, and looked set to last for a thousand years- as, indeed, had the British empire, made me think of how far we'd come. How, soon, there'll be no one who remembers living under the British Raj. I just watched 36. Chowringhee Lane, and it all somehow ties up. It's a bit depressing, and also a bit amusing, depending on how one chooses to look at it.

Anyway, I hope King George has a sense of humour. He created New Delhi, after all, even though he now reposes in a dump about 20 kilometres from it. Goats graze around him now, Rex Imperator though he was. He did like to be treated like a simple sailor, but I think this is carrying it a bit too far.

The journey back was another story, and may form part of the next entry.


Blogger Karan said...

It's amazing how many little treasures Delhi has, but that no one really cares about. I suppose you can be one of the few people who (a) know that it exists, and (b) appreciate the history behind it.

Great Victorian prose, by the way. I miss that here. Hell, there were even words I had to look up, like "grist".

1:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


nice post! I stay in civil lines myself, and will hopefully go look at a monument today.

kabir chandna

2:25 am  
Blogger imperfect said...

And the rest of us still keep visiting the same places again and again n again.

Nice post!

10:18 am  

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