It wasn’t love at first sight exactly. In fact, it wasn’t love at all.
The more I knew of Delhi, the further we moved away from the chances of a happily ever after. And in spite of all our misgivings and compatibility issues, we did have our moments. After all, you don’t invest more than five years in a relationship with no wine-drunk nostalgic memories, do you?
And even though the city has drastically changed from what it used to be, I can’t help but revisit some of my most comforting hideouts. Primarily in very busy pockets of the capital, most of them have lost their charm now (as I see them) and some of them have become different entities.
Hauz Khas Fort
I was appalled to see what has become of Hauz Khas village when I visited it last year. We used to make our way through the quiet, narrow lanes, which had only one restaurant and may be three shops; to find an ‘adventurous’ entry to the ‘water tank’ in the centre of the fort.
The ruins mark Allauddin Khilji’s dynasty and the premises has a madrasa, a mosque and tombs. Escaping its overindulgent history, I merely went here for outdoor therapy. The Winter mornings always created a light haze above the lake, as the barren trees jutted out through its layers. And the Autumn sunsets meant a different hue of the sky every evening.
It wasn’t easy to move away and carry on with life.
Agrasen ki Baoli, Hailey Road
My weekly explorations to Connaught Place took me to Agrasen ki Baoli on a cool afternoon. My third attempt to find the place was successful. (We didn’t have Google Maps then.)
This ancient stepwell wasn’t the most safe for me to visit a decade ago. It was eerily empty. But no sooner I stepped inside, I immediately accepted the silence of the place.
The dark arches and the hundred stony stairs, with the diagonal afternoon sun, seemed somewhat meditative. I revisited a number of times. Every time, it was as invigorating.
Amphitheatre, India Habitat Centre
The cultural recluse in me always sought solace in IHC’s enormous haven. American Diner was a favourite for breakfast or beer but the amphitheatre was my quiet corner. Cosily covered by ornate trees, this is a popular hotspot for performances. But when empty, I only saw lovebirds or solitude seekers. And I was to be found here after an engaging art exhibit.
The Full Circle, Khan Market
Khan Market has become even more crowded than it used to be. My aimless wander in circles would always conclude with my ritualistic visit to the Full Circle Bookstore.
Sometimes hours, sometimes minutes, I’d sifted through the hardbound and the new additions on the mahogany racks. Once my curiosity was satisfied, the stairs took me to Café Turtle. The fresh fruit juices and the coffee here worked like a tranquil reward.
I unfailingly forgot the chaos outside, till I stepped out once again.
Disclaimer: This is a nostalgic post on my experiences in Delhi. It doesn’t attempt to be a guide, in any form.
Care to share your favourite hideouts?