The Creative Writing Course at the British Council, Delhi attracts people from all walks of life. Bankers, entrepreneurs and lawyers meet college students, research scholars and even retired civil servants, who are united solely by their desire to pen their thoughts and churn out the story lying dormant in them.
Ajay Todi is one such student who, in his own words, ‘had a truly memorable time’ during the course. Ajay was so moved by what he says is the ‘spirit of goodwill’ in the institution that he has penned a poignant story around the ‘Charbagh’ which is the inner courtyard at the Council and our very own ‘Garden of five senses’. His descriptions will strike a chord with anyone who has spent time in the Charbagh.
“Have you seen an oasis ?
Have you seen an oasis of calm in the middle of Delhi?”
Even before I could squeak my weak nays to these seemingly inane questions, Bubble had already put one arm around my shoulder and ushered me into the sanctum sanctorum, lavishly called Charbagh. Falling in love was something I’d done several years ago; I was sensing one more opportunity already.
It truly seemed like an oasis of calm in the middle of a maddening city. The petite fountain spread its plume of crystal clear water, ruffled every now and then by the gusts of in-disciplined wind blowing either which way. The muscular Goliath pillars refused to smile, as they dutifully stood tall, perhaps asserting their supremacy as the worldly beings strutted around the hallowed ground – some aimlessly, others with dreamy eyes.
I noticed the brunette on the wall eyeing me with her burnished gaze. “Oh, it’s the face of the five senses”, Bubble exclaimed; the magnificent statue occupying pride of prominence in a place so surreal; charming to some, a source of jealousy for others. Fresh clean air filled my lungs, rebounding off the red stone blocks that adorn the majestic façade of the modern building that lies beyond.
The young palms in the corner soil-beds twist with joy, eagerly trying to catch high-fives with the swaying creeper vines that appeared to extend promises to meet them tonight. Amour at Charbagh under the summer sun? I’m game for a bet. Unable to straighten their stiff necks, tall poor-cousin skyscrapers alongside cast their furtive glances sideways, jealously eyeing the luck that this revered piece of earth enjoys; so near, yet so far – oh, to have been born in Charbagh.
And then the crows appeared; perched on the western wall, awaiting their turn; perhaps eager to amplify the din of traffic horns that has so far failed to disturb the tranquillity. All by itself, the peacock looks away in the distance, trying to catch a glimpse of its companion flying far on the horizon; while the bunch of ivy parrots search for a branch to rest; perhaps time for them to recover from the devastation caused by the now sulking bearded langur looking away with guilt written large.
The clutter of china breaks my thought – spruced in the corner, waiting for the napkins to arrive before they dish some healthy nourishment to eager rounded gourmands. Perhaps the grease would give them their deliverance for the day. With spotless white aprons, the freckled stewards try their best to mimic the MasterChef starcast; not that it matters. I am beginning to feel my stomach churn.
Bubble looked cherubic as ever with the soothing sun playing hide and seek on her cheeks; the chairs under the large brown umbrellas were far more comfortable than I’d thought; to think of it, I’d always preferred the stone benches under the winter sun. Summer was on
its way, I thought.
In the western corner, the aroma of coffee and muffins escapes through the half-opened window where the chirpy girls are unable to decide on their next rendezvous. “Care for a bite?” I could hardly hear Bubble amidst my stupor. “Oh, sure”, I said almost instinctively although not the least bit hungry – thoroughly satiated by the grandeur of the “Classic” meeting “Modernity” in a setting I had least imagined.