The way home is a straight road from the end of Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg through Prithviraj Marg via Tilak Marg and Shahjahan Marg. Right in the middle of it, where roads named after Tilak and Shahjahan meet, lies India Gate to the east. Beyond lies Rajpath, literally a path to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Radials extend in different directions separating soil and grass with tarmac.
Central Delhi is made for walking except that very few people walk here on most days. There are no residences here and crossing roads can be a game of death. At night though, life is quieter and the occasional dog for company becomes a perfect companion. The weather is perfect on this mid-September night with a hint of cool filling the air with freshness. The doggu, who has decided to grace me with its presence for a bit, is equal parts walking companion, equal parts playmate. I ogle at India Gate, shining in the lights. It has joined its friends, who are snoozing around a police patrol van, on the other side of the chhajja (canopy).
The police are at first suspicious, then befuddled before being plain amused when i tell them that i love walking these streets at night out of choice.
“Aap yahaan ke nahi ho?” (You’re not from here?)
“ID hai? (Do you have an ID.)
I pass it on.
“Bambaii se? (From Bombay?)
They return the ID.
This goes on for a while till i am offered tea in a tiny cup. I drink it and hope the intolerance to milk does not knock the door down before i reach home. There’s quite some way to go yet.
The doggus are sleeping now. The police persons are laughing that i am walking out of choice.
“Chalnaa kaise?” (Why walk?)
“Kai din office ko gaadi, kai din 502 par aaj chalne kaa man huaa.” (Some days the office drop, some days the 502, but today i felt like walking.)
This conversation is done.
“Chaltaa hoon. Phir milenge.” (I’m leaving. We’ll meet again.)
I’ll meet them a couple of times over the next two weeks before their shifts change.