Monday, March 11, 2013

Taking on DU

This has been in my drafts section since June 2011. Don't even remember when we went on the walk. Enough already, it's going up now, however incomplete.

Taking on DU

Only the historic monuments, of course.

HT City ran an interesting story a few days ago, about a group of SRCC students -SIFE: Students in Free Enterprise- who had helped organize a bunch of rag tag rickshaw pullers into a group of amateur tour guides. The DU Darshan tour allows these rickshaw wallahs to supplement their income on the weekends by taking fachhas around DU and introducing them to the historic monuments nearby.

Since I'd only been to North Campus once (when I sat in on a very boring lecture at the Faculty of Law with my cousin) and that too when I was in school and thus had none of the awesome Dilli knowledge and spatial understanding that architecture school has imbibed me with, I thought, why not? and so me and Rohan registered for the tour happening today morning.

Not off to a good start. Woke up at 6.25 when I had to reach the Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station by 7.30; nonetheless managed to make it there by 7.40. (Was pleasantly surprised by the Station, some very nice clear glazing separates the escalator going up and the street, and makes for great views of the blue blue early morning sky.)

Getting back on track: there was no one around. Well, besides the seemingly dozens of rickshaw wallahs clamouring around for the emerging sawaris-to-be s' attention (laa phacoolty? sen stepphenz?). No Rohan (who said another ten minutes), nor any fancy rickshaw with different black sunshading.

7.45 I called up -and woke up- the organizer in charge, who promised to get back to me. Rohan came. The rickshaw wallahs got into a fight (with each other). A constable came rushing out of the Metro station and -very impressively, I might add- broke it up. Many drivers fled the scene of the crime. We admired the (sadly still closed) SMS stall: Snackes, Maggi, Shakes. Another rickshaw wallah fight broke out, but an older bhaiya set them straight. It was now 8.15, there was no sign of the SIFE rickshaw, and neither of our two contacts were answering their phones. Needless to say, we were very annoyed; the combination of heat+hunger+thirst wasn't helping.

The organizer finally messaged us the rickshaw guide's number, who said he'll take another 10 (read 20) minutes. We finally found the rickshaw, but were told that we'd have to wait for the other group who'd booked the tour. That pissed us off, considering we'd been waiting for an hour, and after some debate we convinced our bhaiya to start already.

Honestly, by this time we weren't even surprised that there was no map and that all we were given in terms of information was a photocopied bunch of pages which talked some-what vaguely about the stops. The rickshaw bhaiya didn't know anything, and I had to rely heavily on my two Delhi bibles, Lucy Peck's Delhi: A Thousand Years of Building and Percival Spear's Delhi: its Monuments and History. Neither could he really show us around; since we were the only rickshaw on the tour he was wary of leaving his vehicle unaccompanied on the road while we went inside the gated enclosures surrounding most sights.

This is where I stopped.

The rickshaw ride (once it started) was quite good, actually. We saw all these places we hadn't seen before, and some were were really beautiful. I remember how I felt when I saw Pir Ghalib, and the Mutiny Memorial.

The real surprise however was the only bit of DU proper we saw (after the tour): the Shri Ram College for Commerce. The campus was, really, stunning. I'm guessing that we saw a different side to it on a quiet Monday mid-day, during the summer break. But it was so, so lovely. Exposed brick, white plaster, concrete, sun shades, thick borders, colonnades. Light and shade and shadows. Sigh.


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