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Delhiwale: An oasis of the mind

Lodhi Road has become truly fantastic since part of its pavement has been decked up with benches—it happened not long before the coronavirus-triggered lockdown.

For those who like to crib about Delhi, some of the recurrent grievances against the city are that it’s not walking-friendly, that pavements are too few, and that traffic is loud and polluting and dangerous for flâneurs.

Who could contradict them? True, true, and again true.

Or well—partly true. Indeed, some roads have beautiful tree-lined pavements for the walkers among us, such as Lodhi Road in central Delhi.

In fact, Lodhi Road has become truly fantastic since part of its pavement has been decked up with benches—it happened not long before the coronavirus-triggered lockdown. This concerns the long stretch that runs past the Dyal Singh College: the benches are built alongside the college’s boundary wall and don’t interfere with the pavement, which remains as broad as before.

Truth be told, walking on Lodhi Road always brings calmness. There are trees and birds, and you are likely to stroll past a series of Lodhi Road’s regular characters, from food hawkers to pavement barbers. Until some years ago, Lodhi Road was also home to Catherine Lama, an elderly Anglo-Indian woman who wore flowers as jewellery and lived on the footpath with a family of beggars. She died four years ago. Lodhi Road is no longer the same without her, and yet it continues to have a character difficult to find in any other New Delhi avenue.

The new benches give the hurry-hurry stroller a chance to slow down, take a seat and appreciate the ambiance more patiently.

The traffic is sluggish on the road this afternoon, and the vantage point from the pavement bench is more panoramic than when one is simply passing through. A gentleman, sitting on one of the nearby benches, is found insulting the area’s charm by gazing exclusively at his mobile phone screen. If only he looked up at the trees! He would doubtlessly be entranced by the avian life, as leaves continue to fall upon him. Squirrels are fooling about the fallen leaves. Occasionally pedestrians walk past—some are loners and others appear to be romantic couples. And soon appears Naresh Chandra. A Lodhi road living landmark of several years, the ram laddu hawker goes about the area the whole day long with his delicious deep fried delicacy.

Meanwhile, the walls behind the benches have probably lived through so many shifts of seasons that they have discoloured to a strange shade of golden yellow, scarred with rust-coloured scrawls.

When you’ve had enough of sitting and looking (and perhaps reading), you can start walking again and in no time will reach Sab ki Khatir. The footpath eatery is loved for its kebabs. Time for yet another break.

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