The city in the evening can be a sheer beauty or a bare bane

An endless grey-blue sky with a tinge of orange from the setting sun. Add to it the sound of chirping birds. Really, Delhi, at dusk, can be a breathtaking vista. When the starry skies shine on monumental relics like the lit up India Gate, the Jama Masjid, the Red Fort and the Lotus Temple, Delhi becomes a mesmerising beauty. No wonder, hundreds throng these places in the evening to immerse in their loveliness.

However, now that it is touched by the mega city bug, Delhi can be also be a modern-day nightmare with endless high rises blocking a clear view of the evening sky. Withhonking cars, crowded public buses and Metro trains, numerous people milling about everywhere, and of course itsincessant pollution, it becomes worse by the end of the day.

Hindi poet Vimal Kumar rues the loss, “Due to increase in population and limited space, there are no places left to enjoy in the city. Very few parks and open fields are to be seen in colonies these days as they are often surrounded by multi-storied buildings. Living in cities, one is often not able to enjoy the sunrise and the sunset as we are busy with our hectic lives. It becomes worse as the sun hides behind the tall buildings.”

True to this impression, the city roads in the evenings are often filled with people, their faces tense, clad in formals returning from work, now caught in noisy traffic snarls.

“Generally, during the evenings, people are in a hurry to get home after the day's work. However, most of them don't have proper knowledge of traffic rules, so they are unable to drive in lane and create a mess in the process. Due to heavy flow of traffic we are not able to prosecute the violators,” says a traffic policeman at a busy Connaught Place intersection. As we chat him up, he comes out with this one, “As cops, we get mentally stressed handling this mess day after day, we have no time to rest.”

Braving the odds, we soon pay a visit to Birla Mandir, also known as Lakshmi Narayan Mandir, for the evening aarti. Little shinny bulbs light up the temple in the evening, giving it an exquisite look. We are joined in the prayers by hordes of devotees and tourists too. A serene experience.

Walking down the road that leads to Gole Market, we come across Virginia, a tourist from Spain. She likes Delhi at dusk. “It's breezy and more relaxing during the evenings compared to the humid mornings which become hotter and often crowded,” she says. Due to high pollution, Virginia says, “I prefer to wear a mask here to cover my nose.”

As the evening grows on you, so arrives the time for the city's glitziest to get ready to go clubbing, pubbing and letting their hair down in their designer outfits. Says fashion designer Nitya Bajaj, “It's quite nice to meet friends in evening parties. During the mornings, I am busy with shoots and meeting models and business people. So in the evenings, I prefer to be in a relaxed mood at a pub with friends.”

Well-known sociologistT.K. Oommen adds another dimension to the city in the evenings. “A vast majority of middle class people in Delhi like to spend their evenings sitting at home and watching soap operas on television. People also prefer staying at home because of the increasing crime rate in the Capital, especially after sun down.”

To these aspects of Delhi, one can add yet another. Along with the partying crowd and the rabid tele-watchers, there live some people looking for a shelter for the night, a morsel to call it an early dinner at the evening hour. A city of extremes.