Friday, August 14, 2009

City Secret – DDA Park, Opposite Purana Qila

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City Secret – DDA Park, Opposite Purana Qila

A mystery best left unsolved.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

There are many buts about this place. It is thick with woods and grass, but the padding is too thin to screen off the traffic noise (Mathura Road is next door). It is opposite the touristy Purana Qila, but rarely a tourist comes here. It has hillocks, tombs and a ruin, but the entire area is so small that you could cover it in ten minutes.

The signboard outside calls this place a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) Park, but its character is too elusive for such an honour.

The imperfections begin from the start. No entrance gate. You have to jump over a hedge. Inside - trees, bushes, but no flowers, no lovers. The grounds are wrapped up with overgrown grass, but you would soon notice a narrow seemingly well-trodden path snaking through the terrain.

Looking around, it all seems untamed, but does not feel wild. Thanks to the sound of honking cars, this place can never be romanticised as one of those calm islands trapped amidst a stormy sea (think Lodhi Garden!).

Yet, it is so forest-ey. To your right: a hillock. Climb over the rocks: the top surrounded on all sides by giant Neem trees. Their branches bending down to three tombs; all draped with colourful chaadars. One tomb is said to belong to some Peer Saheb, a Sufi saint.

Who was this man? Why was he buried here?

While struggling with such questions, you might get distracted by the ruin, a few steps away, at the ‘far’ end of the park. Who built it? And why? And when? When I walked in there, three government clerks were playing cards under its chhatri. They had no idea about its history.

But is it necessary to seek enquiries, always?

One way to simplify a city is to strip it off its mysteries, to decode its secrets, to break it into chunks of information, to make it guidebook worthy. It is considered civilised to give a landmark a date, a narrative, a purpose. So, in a city having no ambiguities, a garden will always be quiet, a tomb will always belong to a saint, a wreckage will always own a history.

There is no patience with incomplete details.

But that precisely is the attraction of this DDA Park. It is right here, yet hidden in unknowns; its beauty as flawed as this city. Its serenity, sure, is corrupted, but that is because the serenity here is not artificially manufactured as in, say, Buddha Garden. It is an urban oasis, but it does not bar the urbanity’s less pretty intrusions. The smoggy Mathura Road never leave the senses completely. There even lurks a nervous thrill of bumping into an 'anti-social' element.

In a way, this DDA Park encapsulates Delhi’s essence – ruins, trees, tombs and men striking an unsatisfactory compromise with the Capital’s difficult life.

You must come here, but will you?

Where Just opposite Purana Qila, next to the cantonment

The tombs

City Secret – DDA Park, Opposite Purana Qila

The ruin

City Secret – DDA Park, Opposite Purana Qila


Anonymous said...

Majestic Ruin!

We must try to conserve as many as possible. They have a mystical energy about them.

vimesh said...

On the eve of independence day nice article mayank....

Many such hidden treasures are there in al the cities....all we need some to discover it and share the treasures... :)

People often tell us not to ask too many questions of past or why ,how,when things happened,but what i feel is that our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times.

heena said...

Ruins are always so inviting...may be because they conceal an unheard whimper under the garb of silence.
I guess that is one of the reasons why the Romantic poets cherished the ruins over the archaic.
Nice piece and pics, MAS.

LumousP said...

I like that. if there's no element of mystery in a city, than its all too generic. all the 7 Delhis must have hidden a part of them somewhere in the present one.

PS: i see two guys(possibly a third one in white too) and two scooters in the last photo. not that abandoned, now is it? moreover scooters couldnt really jump over a hedge too.

Rajiv said...

wow.another hidden place to b discovered by grt soofi sahib :).

lage raho Soofi bhai

Rajiv said...

yeah thi dilli kabhi

Rangachari Anand said...

This brings back happy memories. I used to live in the government colony around the corner (Tilak Marg) back in the 1980s and have visited this park many times.

ramesh_lalwani said...

Thanks for information ,Mayak.I had made a failed attempt to locate chattri.I shall try again to get a photo of place.

visionary said...

u r a true dilli walla...u hav been to evry nook n corner of this city. evry galli n mohalla of this city knws u vry well.

i'm desperately waiting for a book from u which is filled with all ur experiences with this city.

gud luck!

rajiv or ZEev said...

blog on ht city...Freedom frm South delhi was fantastic,mind blowing......bahut hi achee

aakhir dil hai asli delhi wallla,hahahah these super rich r so phony like plastic nd whenever i attened any party ,i feel same yaar.Dil ki baat keh diii

tango said...

The Europeans can sell a hole in the wall...We have so many of those which need to be preserved!