20 April 2009

A Sunday morning at Lalbagh

I arrived just before 7am, an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning, or so I thought. While the city streets were largely empty, Lalbagh was teeming with early morning activity. A sea of motorcycles and scooters was parked at the gate and the footpaths were already crowded with walkers.

The Lalbagh Botanical Gardens provide a much-needed breathing space in an increasingly congested city like Bangalore. Gone are the days when children used to ride their bicycles and play carefree on the city’s streets. Walking on the traffic-choked roads can be dangerous, and not to mention a health-hazard because of rising pollution levels. Many lament the loss of green cover which has permanently transformed the ‘Garden City’. It is no surprise then that residents flock to parks like Lalbagh for some much-needed space, fresh air and greenery. On a Sunday morning, this calm green oasis becomes the city’s playground.

A group of tourists with cameras slung around their necks had assembled at the base of the Lalbagh rock, one of the park’s landmarks. With close to 2000 plant and animal species, Lalbagh’s diverse flora and fauna make it a favourite with photography enthusiasts. This is also the meeting ground for birdwatchers. Take a walk around the lake and you may come across herons, egrets, kingfishers, coppersmiths and even pelicans if you are lucky. These are only some of the close to 50 types of birds who are regular visitors.

The bandstand, another Lalbagh landmark, is a venue for classical concerts. On my way there, I come across a group of fitness enthusiasts who are busy stretching in preparation for their power walk. They ask me if they can see the photo I had just taken of their group. “Is this for the newspaper?” they excitedly ask. As I pass the famous glasshouse, the atmosphere becomes more contemplative. A man is sitting cross-legged on a bench, doing pranayama. Another stretches out across a stone table into a backbend. Just a few metres away is the bandstand, but there are no sounds of music today. As I get closer, I see three figures seated in vajrasana, palms on their thighs, in meditative silence.

Signs lead me towards Lalbagh lake. Along the footpath, almost each bench is occupied. A middle-age man reads the newspaper while a couple sitting opposite is having a deep discussion. I hear children laughing. Two young girls play badminton while their parents watch. On the lawn, two school-aged boys in shorts are playing cricket.

By the time I reach the lake, the heat has set in and the morning light has changed. The magic has dissipated. The speed walkers are making their last rounds and the dogs have all found shady spots for a long nap. I make my way back to the main gate. The sea of motorcycles is gone. The ticket collectors are there, ready to welcome visitors of a different kind. The early risers have called it a day.

Take a walk through the gardens by clicking on the slide show on the right side bar.


Anonymous said...

Very Nice! The slideshow brought back pleasant memories of the few hours I spent there in June 2006!

(from Long Island,New York)

Anonymous said...

Nice photos, brillant words as always. It's a privilege to know India from yours eyes...