November in Delhi – Part 1 (48/52)

The weather is almost perfect – cool mornings and evenings, daytime highs of 25-27 C, clear blue skies and sunshine without fail every day. This is the time of the year that I love in Delhi. My brother Gopal, who is visiting me for a few weeks, from Netherlands, is delighted!! Every call to his family, he almost gloats about it, since the weather there is hovering at daytime highs in single digits! and of course, rain more often than not.

Gopal  spent the early part of his childhood in Delhi – he left at the age of 14 and has lived in UK and Holland since. In the past he has made either brief business trips to Delhi or  passed  through en route to Chennai where my mother lives. So, on this visit we visited some of the sites that Delhi has to offer.

Our first excursion took us down memory lane – to the familiar sights of our shared  childhood, to the center of Luyen’s Delhi. The first stop was, however, an unplanned one – the Rail Museum at Moti Bagh. Gopal was always fascinated by steam engines, and as we were going over the railway line at Moti Bagh, I spotted the museum and took a quick detour. And it proved to be well worth the effort.

Rail museum

It has seen considerable improvement since my last visit with the children a few winters ago. The coaches have been arranged well, there is an audi tour and the souvenier shop has lovely stuff, mugs and T-shirts etc with the old railway logos!! And some really good models of the old trains. Gopal had a wonderful time..

One of the great stem locos

After the mandatory visit to the cafe for tea, and ice cream at the parking lot, we headed towards Teen Murti. It was at South Avenue (Road leading from Teen Murti to Rashtrapati Bhavan) that we stayed for the first few months after our arrival in Delhi in mid 1955. Gopal was only 3+ then, and has no memories of it. But I remember the house well (No 73) and how as children we used to stand on the roadside and watch on fine evenings, Pandit Nehru go home in an open buggy.

Teen Murti – 3 sepoys on 3 corners of a triangular pillar – from all the radial roads you get visual impression of 4 soldiers

The grand house where he lived, is now a museum in his name. The gardens are large, impressive and fairly well maintained. The Nehru Planetarium is located here and hence there is a whole bunch of school kids in grey uniforms. This is also the site of the Nehru Library which I believe, does scholarly work on the the Nehruvian legacy.

The spacious gardens of Nehru Museum
The impressive building

The Museum itself was a disappointment. While the rooms have been fairly well preserved, the photo exhibit is shabby. It documents a very interesting period of our history, through photos of Nehru’s life. But the pictures are faded, blotched, poorly mounted and has little commentary! A pity, since I doubt if lack of funds is a problem for this museum!!

From Teen Murti we headed towards Rashtrapati Bhavan, drove around it and up the majestic sweep of Raisina Hill, flanked on either side by the North and South Blocks of the Central Secretariat, to stop at the gates of the this imposing structure. The whole of the Government of India functioned from these two buildings, when my father came to work here in 1954. Built as the home for the then Viceroy of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan is probably the most impressive Presidential Residence anywhere in the world. It is also the central piece of Lutyen’s architecture for the then new capital of India.

With Rashtrapati Bhavan in the background
The South block as backdrop

Then we drove down the majestic Raj Path, unfortunately without the sight of India Gate at the other end, thanks  to the Delhi haze. Half way down Raj Path, the Gate comes into view.

India Gate

The area around the Gate has been cordoned off permanently and seems to be one of the more popular outdoor destinations for Delhiites. There were innumerable picnics on the lawns and all the boats were engaged on the small strip of water. Unfortunately, the grand fountains were dry – a sign of the times I guess! I remember  times when these  worked every day and were colored in the evenings.
Gopal was curious as to why the canopy behind the gate was empty, as he remembered a statue there! Well that was of King George V, which was removed and placed at Coronation Park along with those of many other British era figures. Finally we drove around to Pandara Park, and lunch – on butter chicken and nan – another part of the nostalgia for Delhi.

All these were  sites that I drive past every now and then. But it was after a long time that I was actually visiting them, and in fact, it was my first visit to the Nehru museum. Delhi is a lovely city, and probably the city I would call closest to home, and there can be no better way to spend a November day than to enjoy the sun and stroll through Lutyen’s Delhi!

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