Delhi offers its residents numerous opportunities to enjoy open air recreation in a heritage context. Lodi gardens, Purana Qila, Lala Qila, Qutb Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Safdarjung Tomb…I could go on, and these are only the most obvious places to visit.
Mum, me and the kids decided to celebrate the last weekend before school begins again by taking a stroll in one of these. We opted for the Qutb Minar, despite anticipating the tourist hordes, merely because its closest to Gurgaon. We did meet the tourist hordes, but we regretted the outing not a teeny weeny bit!
We had low expectations at the outset. We had all been here before, so it wasn’t a touristy thing to do; rather, we approached it in the manner of paying a casual visit to an old friend. A warm, sunny winter afternoon it was, getting there and parking were not a hassle, ticketing and entry were organized (except that Udai’s bat and ball were politely confiscated and kept safely until we returned) and the crowds were convivial and relaxed as well.
I was struck by the merry atmosphere here and the myriad ways in which people were enjoying the space. Many were viewing everything through the lens of their cameras–from serious enthusiasts armed with digital SLRs (how I missed mine today! It’s being repaired!) to those who recorded their visits on mobile phone cameras, capturing the frame and moment was the order of the day. Others merely lay around the vast lawns–families watching kids play, friends chattering, lovers in silent communication. Tourists listened avidly to guides belting out history lessons in English, French, German and Japanese. We saw a very elegant pair of English (perhaps) ladies, dressed in their pearls and well cut pant suits asking an equally dressed set of Pakistani lady tourists to pose with them for pictures!
Amongst us, too, each person’s agenda varied slightly. Aadyaa clearly viewed the complex as a very interesting obstacle course, constantly looking for appropriate spaces to jump over, climb up and slopes to run down! Udai was willing to get the occasional history lesson, reading the plaques and asking us questions; but simply loved exploring the ruins that comprise Alauddin Khilji’s tomb. For mum, it was partly walk down memory lane thinking about many previous visits, and mostly relaxed observations about the place and the people. As for me, I whipped out my little sketch book and doodled a bit, besides taking pictures and running around with the kids.
For me, these experiences are an integral part of Delhi’s charm and what bind me to this city despite its many frustrating contradictions. I love the strong backdrop that heritage provides, that adds to our lives a sense of history, art, architecture, proportion…in short, beauty packaged in an easy-to-enjoy form!
I came away imagining toothless skeletal smiles inside the graves of good ‘ol Qutb-ud-din, Iltutmish and the rest of the Mamluk, Tughlaq and Khilji clans who created the wonderful complex over time!