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An urban shanghri-la.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
You can cross the entire Gole Park in Central Delhi’s Windsor Place in five minutes flat. It is a traffic roundabout. While there are the usual trees, flowers, grass and bird calls, there is no getting away from the city. You may clap a hand over your ears to shut out the traffic roar, but you will still see the towering Le Meridian hotel on one side, and hotel Shangri La on the other. The park is not perfect. There are bald patches on the lawn and a little bridge straddles a dry pond.
Yet, this park soothes our senses. Though nothing like Safdarjang Enclave’s Deer Park or the North Campus ridge, the impure serenity of Gole Park improvises itself like a jazz tune. Within a few minutes, the garden reveals the subtle beauties of our urban lives – clipped hedges, watered plants, pruned trees and a mouthful of sky tucked amid the tall buildings, rushing cars and big-city anonymity. Falling leaves, red bougainvilleas and kuerjia trees in full bloom celebrate nature, even as the skyscrapers stand as an ode to concrete.
Between the branches, windows glisten. The green of the grass contrasts with the yellow of the public buses. The mynah’s cooing blends in with the impatience of horns. Purists will hate such man-made intrusions; but then, they must leave the cities. If you love the wilds and are prepared to accept the skyline, this park gives you the best of both worlds.
However, for Delhi, Gole Park is like an arthouse film – its merits appreciated by very few. Apart from a loner or a traffic cop, the only people in the park are usually the four gardeners. “At the most, 10 people come here daily,” says gardener Sandeep, “and that, too, in the evenings.”
Most people go to larger spaces that are, conventionally speaking, more beautiful. Favoured by ministers, bureaucrats and expats, Lodhi Garden and Nehru Park – both in Chanakaypuri – are sleeker and more fashionable. Buddha Park in Dhaula Kuan is like an escape from the city. In the Indraprastha Park, near the ITO, there is a nice pagoda. The Children’s Park in the India Gate maidan has swings, slides and merry-go-rounds. All these places cut you off from the city. Perhaps you need their isolation each time you are attacked by Nehru Place claustrophobia. The Central Park in Connaught Place could not be a cure. Too many people sunning themselves there and busy showrooms are just metres away.
But in Gole Park, the urban and the sylvan live in harmony. This must become a destination for all those who love nature but do not want to flee the city.
That's hotel Shanghri-La
What are you thinking?
Shh, he's sleeping
That's Le Meridian
Close to the city, yet far