There are pleasures of being an early riser in the city
You are most likely to agree when we say a city is best seen when it is silent, its roads deserted, its edifices standing mute, particularly an overcrowded metropolis like Delhi. Seriously, most places here look so poles apart in the early mornings than say, during the office hour scramble. In fact, you discover a new city altogether if you succeed to beat your early morning sleep and get outdoors and watch it coming to life.
Resolving to take this bold step to discern a Delhi that we circumvent day after day in our busy man-eat-man lives, we step out of our homes on a balmy morning. The clock has just struck five when we hit the road. May be it is already too late for some morning walkers but to us, the quietude almost makes us think of turning back, it might be unsafe for us to get out that early. Well, what we see at the turn of the road is a newspaper vendor, may be the one who delivers the daily paper to us every day. He is loading his bicycle with stacks of the day's newspapers. We get talking and he happily relates to us his daily work. “About a thousand newspapers arrive around four in the morning which is then arranged in the distribution order for the next two hours before they reach you,” he says with an air of pride.
Taking note of his “daily habit”, we soon head towards the heart of the city, passing by the white pillars of Connaught Place, dug up all over. A flock of twittering birds flit by even as some passers-by are footing it to the nearest tea shop perhaps. An occasional car or two whizz by, a few sleepy heads rising up in the disturbance. We continue on our journey, wondering what happens to these people on the street in winters.
Wheeling around the Gol Dak Khana, we come up with the idea of paying a visit to the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara nearby. Like all times, we are served a palm full of hot halwa. With time in hand, we decide to find out the secret behind the yummy dollops of ghee-glazed halwa and walk towards the kitchen. There stands an affable Gurmeet Kaur Khalsa, the person on kitchen duty. Gurmeet explainsthat the 45kg daily serving of halwa is cooked in a huge vessel (big enough to cook us both together!) using simple ingredients likewheat, ghee and sugar. As for taste, she laughingly adds, “This is the sweetness of the prayers offered to the Almighty.”
Our next stop is the flower market at Hanuman Mandir. At six in the morning, it is well into its business hours. An open market, it is choc-a-bloc with flowers, real and artificial, seasonal and rare blooms. T.R. Khanna, a flower merchant, is proud to be a part of this decades-old flower market, said to be Asia's largest. He ends the conversation saying, “I like being surrounded by fresh flowers every morning.”
We subsequently reach Jama Masjid. Though we miss the muezzin's early morning azaan, we nevertheless catch up with him to talk about his daily work. He happily relates his experience, “The morning prayer has its own charm.” He shares with us the story of a devout construction worker who used to lay a single stone every day. When asked, he said he read the whole Quran before laying each stone.
On checking our itinerary, we still have a lot of places to visit. Alas, Delhi now is well into its busy self. We tread back home thinking of the train drivers chugging into the city railway stations at the crack of dawn, the priest with the flowers for the early morning puja at Birla Mandir, the cooks at the Coffee Home readying their breakfast dishes, DTC drivers getting into the ramshackle buses to do school duty…. We promise ourselves, we shall do all of it and more next time surely!