Holi is the time of change. Seasons change, trees lose their leaves, flowers bloom on the roundabouts. Skies shake clear of the pollution of the last few months. This winter has been strangely mild. There have been no rains and the leaves are covered with soot. You are looking forward to the new leaves to put some fresh greenness on the roads; especially the Peepal trees that turn into Claude Monet’s canvasses with the new leaves taking colours of all hues.
|Boulevards of Bougainvillea|
Last year on Holi, you were away witnessing the incredible Holla Mohalla festival up close in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. This year you will resume the annual tradition of driving around Delhi on Holi afternoon.
The first stop is on the Barapullah elevated road that takes you directly to your weekend haunts of IHC and IGNCA. The Barapullah flyover constructed in the run-up to Commonwealth Games of 2010 to ferry athletes from the Commonwealth Village to Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Lodhi Colony is constantly spreading its tentacles. On the West it is being extended to AIIMS and beyond; while to the East it will glide over the Yamuna connecting Mayur Vihar and therefore East Delhi to South Delhi. Yes that’s what we need more of – roads and more cars.
|The encroached Barapullah built in 17th century with the new parallel bridge. No construction can take place within 100 metres of protected monuments; here the bridge is three metres away|
A train departing from the Hazrat Nizamuddin station ambles away lazily. For a moment, the Holi afternoon does feel languid. This is the story of Delhi’s changing face in a frame – a 17th century bridge used by caravans and marching armies, a 20th century railway line carrying hundreds of passengers along the same Deccan route and a 21st century elevated road soaring above the apathy of both citizens and government.
|One of the rare Dargahs dedicated to Woman - Dargah of Hazrat Bibi Fatima Sam (died 1246 AD), Kaka Nagar, New Delhi|
|Roundabout in front of PM Residence|
|The newly christened Teen Murti - Haifa Chowk|
During Israel’s Prime Minister’s recent visit, the roundabout has been renamed as Teen Murti – Haifa Chowk in the centenary year of Battle for Haifa in 1918. Teen Murti is a memorial to Indian soldiers of Hyderabad, Mysore and Jodhpur princely states, part of the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade who died in the Great War of 1914-19. Nearly 900 Indian soldiers are buried in Israel, their ultimate sacrifice liberating Haifa from 400 years of Ottoman rule.
|The always atmospheric Shanti Path|
Shanti Path flanked with embassies on both sides, is probably the most atmospheric street after Rajpath. You still remember the faintly fragrant white petunias lining either side of the road last year. This time they have been replaced by marigolds. You were looking forward to inhaling the scent of the petunias. Nevertheless the huge marigolds that seem like the Orange African varieties are quite hot.
|The Bougainvillea Bonanza|
|Blooming Bougainvilleas, Bangladesh Embassy, Dr. S Radhakrishnan Marg, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi|
Moving deeper into the Diplomatic Enclave beyond Satya Marg, you turn left on to Dr S. Radhakrishnan Marg. The sight leaves you breathless. The pavement hugging the Bangladesh Embassy seems to have been doused in kaleidoscopic Holi colours. Bougainvillea of all colours forma canopy over the pavement. This is hands down the prettiest street all day. Imagine if all the roads in Delhi were like this. Delhi would be the prettiest city.
You need to go deeper. Moving on to San Martin Marg, you turn right onto Abai Marg. You find the sign for what you were looking for. This is the Chanakya Puri Railway Station. A bunch of Black & Yellow taxis wait outside. The drivers sit around waiting for telephone calls. Do people still call for taxis?Maybe they don’t have smart phones. Black and yellow taxis in the city seem to be on the endangered list.
|Chanakya Puri Railway Station|
|No you don't know them|
|The Sangam Cinema Hall has school time connection|
Oh well before that happens it is time to move to Vijay Chowk as dusk descends. The entire secretariat and Rashtrapati Bhawan has got new set of cool lights. The already beautiful Raisina Hill looks even more gorgeous.
After a quick round of the India Gate, you come back to Rajpath to set your tripod and wait for the moon to rise. The moon always appears catching you with surprise. Somebody just flicks a switch and it is there. The moon in all its glory, full and red, seems to be suspended over the Rai Jamun trees. It is hard to figure out who looks prettier – the moon or the India Gate. The sight gets etched inside you. You are transfixed. By the time you snap out of the reverie and figure out the settings of the camera, the moon has already climbed over India Gate.
The sight is simply fascinating. It was as if Edwin Lutyens had designed the entire vista with the rising moon in mind. You just wonder, in the grind of our daily lives, how many times do we actually pause and observe all this beauty around us – especially in a city which for few months becomes unliveable. But for you these few hours take you back to the innocent times when New Delhi was just a slow-paced city as you rode a scooter.