Delhi, India: Walking Through Delhi
It is 6 in the evening and a slight drizzle welcomes my parched senses after exiting the library in the Arts faculty. The weather welcomes me with it's aroma of soft earth and the lush greenery that becomes all the more beautiful after a drizzle. The faculty is almost half deserted as it’s the weekend. It is yet to turn into night when the streetlights are slowly coming alive as I walk to take an auto-rickshaw to my regular haunt around the university, Majnu ka tila. The University of Delhi campus area is absolutely breathtaking in the evenings and a walk around the northern ridge is perfect for those seeking quiet in the hustle-bustle of Delhi.
Majnu ka tila is a locality where Tibetan refugees in Delhi reside and also home to a host of wonderful cafes and shops. Meandering through the complicated lanes of Majnu ka tila or MKT as it is popularly called, I forget my way halfway through. If you forget your way like me every now and then, the locals are really helpful and will direct you to the cafe. I forego the more popular spots in the area to land at a home away from home, Yamuna Cafe. Witnessing spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter through the windows of Yamuna Cafe is like breathing anew every time the season changes and falling deeper in love with this place, my city.
Whenever anyone thinks of Delhi, they usually think about the biting winters, the scorching summers, and supremely wet monsoons. Locals will swear by the statement that Delhi is at its height of beauty during winters. September is the month when the monsoons have almost ended and the weather hovers around a pleasant 30 degrees. That is the time when the travelling soul feels like getting out of the house and the walking bug calls with its luring birdsong. From the crowded pavements of Chandni Chowk to the quieter pavements in Pragati Maidan, Delhi has a lot to offer in terms of walking trails.
Walking in Delhi allows one the time to listen in on the very heartbeat of the city and to echo their own. The cacophony of old Delhi in the tiny lanes of Chandni Chowk is best enjoyed on days when you are ready to brush shoulders with many people and to soak in the sheer intensity and bubbling energy of the place. If quieter areas is what you prefer then taking a walk around the back lanes of Barakhamba Road is a must in late afternoons. The best time to walk around Connaught place and its adjoining areas is early morning when the streets are quieter and the pavements almost empty of pedestrians. Delhi is a curious amalgam of the modern existing alongside the antiquated and this is evident in this particular walking route. Getting off at Pragati Maidan metro station one can start this long walk and on the way pass many famous monuments like the Old Fort, India Gate and Agrasen ki Baoli. National Gallery of Modern Art also lies on this route and opens at 11am and is a wonderful place to lose oneself in the quiet pathways leading to such beautiful and frankly lovely artworks the museum has to offer. Google Maps will have your back but there are many small shops on the way to help navigate if one loses their way on this particular route. If the lure of food is strong then one can choose to have an early breakfast at any of the state canteens in and around Connaught place like Himachal Bhawan and Maharashtra Bhawan. These restaurants serve affordable and authentic regional cuisine.
One of the secrets the city holds dear is the Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah and the Qawwali nights that this place is famous for. The Dargah is accessible from JLN stadium metro station and also lies quite close to Humayun's tomb, another architectural beauty. Walk down to Humayun's tomb in late afternoon and later go for a Qawwali session that happens only on Thursdays at the Dargah later in the evening. The evocation of prayer in romantic undertones is food for the soul and the experience is out of this world. After the amazing Qawwali, Nizamuddin has various restaurants to tempt you.
Another one of the picturesque walks lies around Indian habitat centre. This particular place makes for a wonderful evening out as most days many cultural shows are happening in the centre which are free of cost and introduce one to everything from photography exhibitions to regional plays. The centre also boasts of a great food court where dinner is served with much relish. Another lovely place to acquaint oneself with the city and enjoy its natural beauty is a walk around Lodhi Gardens. Getting off at Jor Bagh metro station and simply following Google Maps will lead you to these lush gardens. The park is spread over 90 acres and houses monuments of beautiful serenity like the Bara Gumbad and the tomb of Muhammad Shah. The gardens also make for an amazing picnic place alongside a book to keep one company in this place. After a day filled with kilometres upon kilometres of walking one must walk down to the oldest bakery in Delhi, established in 1926, Wengers. People swear by the waffles served in this place alongside an eclectic mix of pastries and many items on the deli menu.
When night falls and if your hotel or house is located on higher floors then you would be greeted by such sights in Delhi, similar to any other city which is sure to assert the fact that no matter where we are, beauty can always be found in the unlikeliest of places.