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Spectator by Seema Goswami: Up the garden path – brunch columns

Dear readers, I have a confession to make. I have been unfaithful. Over the last few weeks, I have been cheating on my long-time love on a regular basis. And what’s worse is that I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it.

Well, partly, at least it is the fault of my long-time love, or as you may know it, Lodhi Garden. Once the lockdown was relaxed in Delhi and it was possible to go for a walk in its sylvan surroundings, I excitedly donned my sneakers and mask and headed out for my evening constitutional.

Suffice to say that it didn’t go well. Even though I went in the late afternoon, when the park is usually relatively empty, this time around it was teeming with people. I may have made my peace with that if it hadn’t been for the fact that about 50 per cent of these people were not wearing masks (or had them dangling from their ears or draped around their necks). So, I spent all my time gesturing to them to put their masks on properly, or asking them to do so in my most polite tones. Of course, nobody paid the least attention.

So, after a traumatic 45 minutes of this, I finally gave up the good fight and headed back home, convinced that I had contracted Covid because of my love for Lodhi Garden.

Two weeks on, it was clear that I hadn’t been infected with anything other than a searing distaste for repeating that experience. That’s when I turned my lusty gaze to another beauty that had been hovering on my horizon for a while. I speak, of course, of Sunder Nursery.

What a luxury it is in these times to have the breeze waft gently against your naked face and have the sun kiss your entire visage

Sprawling across 90 acres and boasting of manicured lawns, wild woodland areas, sparkling water bodies, effervescent fountains, and historic monuments, this green wonderland had been sending out its siren call to me with every picture I saw on Instagram. So, I finally gave in to temptation and headed there one evening.

Would you consider me a promiscuous so-and-so if I say that it was love at first sight? Would you judge me if I said that the wonder that is Sunder Nursery drove the amazing beauty of Lodhi Garden right out of my mind? Would you call me a faithless lover because I switched allegiance in the course of one evening?

Well, never mind, I will take the name calling in my stride. And that’s because the stunning splendour of my new love more than makes it worth my while.

For one thing, there’s the fact that the gardens are blissfully empty compared to crowded pathways of Lodhi Garden (the entrance fee may have something to do with it). There are vast, empty stretches where you don’t see another human being for ages. So, it’s perfectly safe to remove your mask for a few minutes to breathe in the air redolent with the smell of freshly-cut grass or the scent of petrichor. I can’t begin to describe what a luxury it is in these times of Corona to have the breeze waft gently against your naked face and have the sun kiss your entire visage.

Just like Lodhi Garden, here too the landscape is littered with historical monuments that have been painstakingly restored. So, when the heat becomes too much, you can take refuge in the cool interiors of these centuries-old structures, and bathe in the aura of antiquity they exude.

And then, there are the birds. There is, in fact, an entire habitat that has been given over to peacocks, where you can sit around and watch them frolic. If you are patient, you may be lucky enough to see a peacock unfurl his feathers and honour you with a private dance performance.

It’s not just peacocks and peahens, either. The grounds are littered with birds with brightly-coloured plumage (one day I will find out what they are all called). And if you stay late into the evening, you don’t even need to plug in your earphones and listen to music. You can, instead, revel in the sound of birdsong.

So, are you surprised that I am in love? Yes, I guessed not.

The views expressed by the columnist are personal

Follow Seema Goswami on Twitter @seemagoswami

From HT Brunch, September 6, 2020

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