Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Reliving Delhi: ‘Holi’Day March 2016 - A Photoessay

Last year you figured out that Holi is probably the only day in Delhi when the city is lulled into a languid stupor after a morning of splash of colours. Driving in the afternoon of Holi almost recreates Delhi of your childhood – wide tree-lined flowery boulevards with almost no people or vehicles to be seen.

Vijay Chowk, New Delhi

It is a day to go on another nostalgia trip and maybe discover few more gems on the way.

You decide to take the same route you took last year - driving from Noida and then taking the Nizamuddin bridge to bring you to India Gate. Wait a minute, you just read that Bhairon Marg connecting Mathura Road to Ring Road has caved in. No problem, you will take the Kalindi Kunj barrage to Nehru Place and GK-I - places you associate with your college days.

Noida is growing vertically in both directions. Construction of skyscrapers, malls, new metro lines, elevated roads and new townships is going on at a furious pace - a funky underpass in Noida

When was the last time you saw Kalindi Kunj this empty - well never
You don't remember taking the beverage associated with Holi. Finally the underpass connecting Sarita Vihar to Okhla is ready. Now you can zoom to Tughlaqabad and Alaknanda on your weekly trips

After weaving magic on the walls of Lodhi Colony, St+Art has turned its attention to the metro stations. Here Govindpuri Metro Station is getting a makeover - Artist Agostino Iacurci from Italy

Now you don't have to go to Old Delhi to feed pigeons - Crossing of Kalka Mandir

Most single screen cinema halls are disappearing. You remember watching Urmila shake it in Daud! - Paras Theatre in Nehru Place before they pull it down or convert it into another multiplex

The Savitri Cinema Hall in GK-II was shut down for few years and has now opened as DT Cinemas. You remember watching Ghayal, Sunny Deol's best and one of the best Hindi movies ever

Besides Chanakya, Priya and theatres in CP, Archana in Greater Kailash Part I was the place where cool people hung out. Now it has been turned into something unrecognisable

Yes this is the Josip Broz Tito road connecting ITO to Chirag Delhi!

Told you it feels like 1982 again when these flyovers were built for the New Delhi Asian Games

The Oberoi Hotel will be closed for renovation for two years

From the Oberoi Hotel you turn right on Dr Zakir Hussain Marg. The Golf Course is on the left where luxury cars head into the wooded grounds. You know there are a bunch of monuments inside but for a commoner like you they are out of bounds. 

And then like it always happens. You see these red sandstone domes just beyond the boundary walls. The sign confirms this is a Mughal era complex which goes by the name of Lal Bangla. You leave the car outside and enter the Delhi Golf Club through Gate 1. On the left steps lead you to the enclosure. Set amidst trees the trees are two tombs. What a surprise - you must have passed this stretch hundred times but you never saw these!  

Lal Bangla Tombs in Golf Course - one of the tombs has two graves of mother and daughter of Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II (1759-1806)

And then comes the surprise - standing on the roof of one of the tombs you can see the fairways of the golf course stretching into the distance as players tee off. Delhi Golf Club is Delhi's oldest and most prestigious golf clubs.

Just when you had given up all hope of ever seeing the monuments in Golf Course, here you are standing next to a double dome looking at the greens and tombs spread around the course - View from Lal Bangla (Mughal 18th Century), Delhi Golf Club Parking, Gate 1, Dr Zakir Husain Marg, New Delhi

A round of India Gate Circle is de riguer.

Hyderabad House on Ashok Road, C-Hexagon, India Gate Circle where state banquets are held

Barakhamba Road is couple of kms away. Will go check out your school. Of course they wont let you in now. Opposite is the Hailey Road which will take you to the now suddenly very popular Agrasen ki Baoli.

Modern School Barakhamba Road, New Delhi

You come back into the Lutyens zone as you make your way towards Chanakya Puri. 

Holi Revellers have the road to themselves

New Delhi with its trees looks beautiful any time of the year. In March, the awe metre ratchets up a few notches. It seems the trees are celebrating all the seasons at the same time. Some trees are bare, some have these iridescent soft leaves of all hues and some trees look resplendent in delectable green. The cotton silk trees are decorated with red flowers.

Five Shades of New Delhi

Hotel Mansingh - It is surprising to find so many hotels in New Delhi!
Christian Cemetery at Prithviraj Road. The complex has Jewish and Parsis cemeteries too which you plan to explore next

Christian Cemetery with Hotel Mansingh in the background

A lady has just placed some fresh flowers and lit candles

Hotel Claridges where PM Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed his evening tea

So while Aurangzeb Road has been renamed, Aurangzeb Lane has survived! You are not a great fan of this renaming business

Now you are making your way from Race Course Road to Vinay Marg and to your school.
Hotel Samrat in neighbourhood of Hotel Ashok

My School - Naval School in Chanakya Puri where you studied upto tenth

Rose Garden - at the intersection of Shanti Path and Satya Marg in Chanakya Puri, New Delhi

Roundabout at the intersection of Shanti Path and Kautilya Marg where you climbed these trees a long time ago

Palika Health Complex in Chanakya Puri where you were born

You are at Teen Murti where you grew up.

You will always remember this as Willingdon Crescent

The erstwhile Teen Murti Traffic Lines where you grew up

The Teen Murti Traffic Police Lines has been turned into an Academy for Smart Policing - yes it has never looked this beautiful. You can remember every pillar and every barrack and the big dining table where we played table tennis and on the left here were the broken-down and challaned vehicles where we played hide and seek

The shahtoot tree behind our house. They taste as sweet today as they did summers ago
Our usual route opposite Traffic Police Lines into the President Estate on our way to get milk from South Avenue market

The Khinni tree where we played cricket and got chased by the gardeners

The Gyarah Murtis commemorating Dandi March stand where once was a fountain with colourful lights. You can still feel the spray on your face on hot summer evenings. It must have been late seventies when the fountain was pulled down around the same time when President Jimmy Carter drove by standing and waving at us school kids in his open Cadillac. Those were the days. In a few years Delhi would burn and bleed.

On end had Teen Murti and the other end had a fountain. The fountain was pulled down and the Dandi March statues installed. We called them Gyarah Murti. It gave us a new place to play hide and seek in the evenings as some of kids hid up the statues - don't ask how!

After soaking in the memories of your childhood, you are on your way to Dhaula Kuan. You had seen the most beautiful and immaculately maintained cemetery in Kohima commemorating Commonwealth soldiers who died fighting Japanese in the WW II. Recently, you found out that there is a similar cemetery in Delhi! You need to explore Delhi Cantonment today.

But first you need to make a slight detour. Beyond Dhaula Kuan, you turn right into Cariappa Marg. Few metres ahead you make a left into Brijlal Dua Marg. The first surprise rises majestically in the school grounds. This is the massive and different looking brick St. Martin's Church. 

Maurya Sheraton - home of Dal Bukhara - someday!

The monolithic brick St. Martin's Church in Delhi Cantt

St. Martin's Church

Now you are back on the Ring Road driving towards Naraina. Few kilometres ahead you make an U-Turn just beyond the under construction Brar Square metro station. On the left you come to a railway crossing. You don't remember last when you waited at a railway station in Delhi! It looks like this would take time. The goods train is delivering some locomotives from Tughlakabad yard. You hang around the level crossing cabin. Few more people join in. You are getting late to discover that cemetery.

At the Brar Square rail crossing in Delhi Cantt on the way to Delhi War Cemetery

"Oh you want to go to the cemetery? Why don't you use the underpass few yards away!" One of the driver finally helps you out. "My Tempo Traveller can't make it through. I will have to wait." Thanks Dude!

Holi Excitement continues

You arrive at this impressive colonnaded gate. This is the Delhi War Cemetery run by UK Government's Commonwealth War Graves Commission. There is something about young men taken away in the prime of their youth that even the breeze tiptoes around where they rest. While this cemetery is deep inside the deserted Delhi Cantt you felt the same tranquillity in tumultuous Kohima where the cacophony of the city became a low hum as you walked around the graves. You are at peace here. Walking around cemeteries lulls your mind into a comforting quietness - as if the constantly running thoughts in the mind finally want to pause and rest. 

Delhi War Cemetery - Delhi Cantt

Delhi War Cemetery - Rest and sleep on the bed of dewy grass and fragrant flowers
You are driving towards another part of Delhi you haven't seen yet. This is west of the ridge. You are going to see the Pusa area.

The Airport Metro Line is the most interesting looking - the pillars look like steel pins

It has been cloudy most of the day and now suddenly blue appears with streaks of white - Ridge Road, New Delhi

National Agricultural Science Complex - Pusa Institute, New Delhi

You come back to North Avenue beyond Talkatora and Lohia Hospital. You need to go back to Talkatora Gardens one of these days and look for this chattri.

Church Road, New Delhi

In New Delhi everything is green and leafy - even the mobile tower

Rush Hour Traffic on Holi at Central Secretariat, New Delhi - Delhi has its own way of creating such wondrous scenes. This is Central Secretariat or Daftar, one of the major DTC hubs where you changed buses on way to school. On Holi evening, all you can hear is leaves falling silently from the trees. This nice lady has been following you from North Avenue to Church Road and now to Gurudwara Rakab Ganj. She said usually they go to Talkatora Gardens but today since there is nobody on the roads, she decided to show her grandson some new sights. Also, he wanted to smell some stroller rubber burning on the asphalt.

North Block

In the distance, on Pandit Pant Marg you can see the Gole Dak Khana and over it the familiar facade. It is Maundy Thursday at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the day before Good Friday. There is a service happening in the lawns with kids and priests lined up under the setting sun. You spend a few minutes here.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Gole Dak Khana, New Delhi

St. Columba's School

The evening is spent at Vijay Chowk as the sun sinks behind Rashtrapati Bhawan and the fountains light up. 

Parliament House at Vijay Chowk, New Delhi

Vijay Chowk, New Delhi

Another wonderful year has gone by. In the past year you have visited places so far away and so exotic that you have to pinch yourself and go through the photo albums just to tell yourself that you were not dreaming. It could be cleanest and floweriest village in Meghalaya or driving into the most memorable of sunsets in Kutch, but your heart beats for the city you were born in and grew up in. Delhi is home and the anchor that brings you back from your wanderlusts. 


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  1. That's one long drive! Took you right back to your childhood.

    So much can be seen in a day in Delhi if it is a 'holi'day and yes, Nirdesh without the obnoxious fumes and milling crowds Delhi looks beautiful in its 5 shades of spring.

    St Martin's Church is unlike any Church that I have ever come across. No sprire, no cross !

    1. Hi Zehra,

      Yes about eighteen years condensed into five hours of driving through roads and lanes of childhood in the process discovering some more gems. New Delhi seems to grow even more beautiful with every passing year. Now only if they do something to keep a check on the automobiles - Holi is the perfect day to experience the utopia of the childhood with no vehicles or crowds.

      Yes even I was amazed to see the huge monolithic structure of the church - churches in Delhi are quite eclectic - from these bare looks to the cheerful looking Sacred Heart Cathedral.

      Delhi waits for you to experience her!


    2. Hi Nirdesh,

      Delhi is not growing beautiful suddenly except for the wonderful street art but now you are looking at it and observing it differently. And that has made all the difference !

      Would love to experience Delhi on a 'holi'day but filhal - Hunuz dilli dur ast

      Nevertheless this was a nice sweet and nostalgic tripping down memory lane filled with adventure and discovery

      Keep tripping !

    3. Yes Zehra,

      Its true that I have started to look at Delhi with a new perspective. And the beauty is that Delhi is beautiful from all perspectives. And Delhi is never far away - everyone gets here sooner or later!