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A must visit for solitary seekers.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tucked behind the high rises of Connaught Place, Hailey Road is teasingly serene with its tree-lined streets, sleepy bungalows, scanty traffic, disfigured brick walls and a 14th century ruin.
Start the walk from the Iranian Embassy. There's Persian calligraphy inscribed on the embassy building. Close your eyes and imagine as if you are in Tehran or Isfahan or Shiraz or any other Iranian destination of your choice.
OK, return to Delhi.
Rather than walking on the left of the avenue, cross over to the other side. It is richer in sounds and sights. If it is morning, say, 9 am, you’ll see plump secretaries in short skirts and tight blouses walking to their offices. Also spot the young folks – boys and girls – exchanging love talk on the pavement. Around them lingers an unmistakable whiff of sex. Try eavesdropping.
Otherwise, it's silent here. Oh, except the rustle of dry leaves as they are trampled under your feet. Occasionally, cars and autos will whiz past. However, the shaded trees, the thick branches, the vines that creep around boundary walls make the mood so alcoholic that even the sound of cars seem melodious.
Soon you will reach Asha Deep building. I’m told there are 44 flats here. Perhaps more exciting is a handsome palm tree which, if seen from an angle, appears taller than the building. The bungalow next to it, however, merits more detailed attention even though you can’t enter it.
The gates of 7, Hailey Road, are locked. Its driveway has disappeared under a soft bed of wild grass. The abandoned brick mansion inside looks sad. If, in your pimpled days, you’d read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, your thoughts, no doubt, would be transported to Manderley.
Err, be careful. Hanging around here may upset the lone security guard inside.
We are now standing by a chai booth. Popular with auto drivers, its sight is most pleasing. A chai here cost Rs 4. There’s a coffee machine too. Rs 8. Samosas, served with chhola, comes for Rs 5. After placing the order, you may like to sit down on a low platform just below a giant Peepal tree. Do you notice a charming Hanuman statute here?
The chai, of course, is as good as the chai-shop gossip.
Now, get up and keep walking straight. You are in front of a 6-floor apartment complex -- cold and foreboding. Ignore it. Also ignore the next building – Banga Bhawan – whose only interesting feature is that it boasts a VIP entry (so Delhi!). Perhaps there's a reason - all the officials from West Bengal stay here during their official visit to the Capital.
Soon you will arrive at a right turn. Follow it. You will see the 14th century Maharaja Agra Sen ki Baoli, an ancient water tank said to be constructed by Maharaja Agrasen. Around hundred steps lead down to this 5 meter deep tank. Apparently, the next-door Asha Deep apartment complex built a cool water harvesting system a few years ago. Was this baoli the inspiration?
Whatever it be, you’ll hardly find a soul here. People come in rarely and that too to throw coins and ask for a wish. Last year a body was seen floating in the tank. They said it was a suicide case.
Scared? Walk straight.
You'll find that both sides of the street are lined with washed clothes hanging from a rope. There’s a dhobi ghat on the right, next to a Shiva temple. Walk into it and you’ll confront a sight no longer seen in this age of washing machines -- dozens of dhobis washings dozens of clothes in dozens of bath tubs.
Continue with the walk. The right side of the street is boring with its apartment blocks but on the left there are low brick walls that look forlorn. You may like to sit on the pavement here and read a sad book.
A few more steps and this street merge into Hailey Lane. Turn left. So many trees, so many branches crawling over the alley that the sky here is like a patchwork of leaves and woods.
Truly, the nature finds it own way, even if you are in the heart of a concrete metropolis.
A minute of stroll here and you emerge out into the busy Tolstoy Marg. The journey ends.
Where Opposite Modern school, Barakhamba Best time Any time (winter), mornings and evenings (summer) Advise Ladies should consider carrying a pepper spray
Your walk starts now
Hello Tehran, Iranian Embassy
Nice, plump secretaries
Love in the air
Koi hai, 7, Hailey Road
14th Century Vs 21st century, next to Maharaja Agrasen ki Baoli
Where's my washing machine, Dhobi Ghat
A dead tree in the concrete jungle, Tolstoy Marg