Heaps of garbage lining walls that reeked with the smell of urine! Boy! Was it some start to a nose walk or what? The day started with pungent smelling air gushing past us, into our nostrils blowing our olfactory senses away. A nice start to our nose walk, we thought.
What made us do such a walk in the first place? Hidden-Pockets does experiential walks so a walk based on smell was to add a different angle to our experiences. Our sense of smell gets otherwise ignored since visuals usually take precedence over all our other senses. So it was just to add a twist to and discover for ourselves what and where would this trail lead us to.
What triggered this walk was the smell around. We started the zig-zag trail from the District Court, Saket as that was a good assembly point, crossing over to the other side to the Satpula Lake Complex, then back on the Press Enclave road walking towards Khirkee, crossing over to the Saket City Hospital and Mandir Marg intersection and then walking past Max Hospital to the Press Enclave apartments. The trail was carefully chosen considering how well I know every nook and corner of this high-profile, hyper-used road in South Delhi.
A walk every evening to PVR Saket and the Press Enclave road has been an integral part of my life. The lack of space for pedestrians to walk provides the room for the much needed adventure even in our non-adventurous lives.
I remember half running past Saket City Hospital and the Mandir Marg intersection holding my breath, not because I want to look slim but because the smell of the garbage heap at that junction can send you to cloud nine or not. Being concerned about the state of that locality, we pitched for a walk in collaboration with Maraa: a media and art collective (Delhi Chapter) to raise awareness around waste management and a concern towards our environment.
We assembled outside District court and crossed right across the road to Satpula Lake complex, built by Mohammed bin Tughlaq in the 14th century,our first stop. It was used as an water reservoir for irrigation purposes. This part of the walk was the most interesting one since it made me think and then link the huge stretch of the drain to the 14th century reservoir.
Although, I’m not too sure but the dry patch, which I have seen being used as a cricket ground in January. It had now turned into a swimming pool for buffaloes, which were sunbathing on an extremely hot and humid day. A wild hunch is that the present day drain could be one of the streams which used to feed the reservoir back in the 14th Century. While the link gave us a quick adrenaline rush, the happiness soon drowned in a pool of concern around what have we done to the environment?
We came out of the complex with thoughts in our minds and started walking towards Khirkee, sticking to the main road. With shops and vehicles all around it leaves no place for a pedestrian to walk. Jumping from one rock to another trying to find a better trail to walk without getting hit, makes this walk quite challenging. Yes, the presence of two hospitals nearby was a great relief to the mind, I swear!
We fought past the rough trail and reached the garbage collection point of Khirkee village with garbage neatly stacked in the huge metallic bins, which of course no one saw except me, bang opposite SelectCity Walk mall. I had to shout at every garbage point to actually make people see it since the picture right across the road was too rosy to take your eyes off it. One takes you to Tamasha’s Social kind of a space and the other takes you to Fukrey’s Ambarsariya sets. I realised our default setting is to follow the visual and not the smell considering how all the participants turned a blind eye to the stinking garbage.
With our nose about to explode with the regularity of the heaps that kept popping up, I eventually cursed myself for having come up with such a walk.
At the end of the trail, standing under a tree near an unidentified waterbody which was overflowing drainage water, we decided that we will not do this walk again in the morning or until the weather gets better. Secondly, we will try to include more smells since it predominantly turned out to be an odour walk. But that’s the dominant smell in this region, sadly.
It was fun since walking through my everyday trail keeping in mind just smell gave a very different look to the otherwise mundane locality. It did raise a lot of concerns, but the presence of safai-karamcharis who are doing their work efficiently too gave a sense of relief that there are these foot-soldiers who are trying their level best to keep the city clean.
Whatever be the smell, stench, odour or fragrance, it does add an element to our city. It lends the area its identity and gives us a reason to walk or not to walk around those places. We make choices and choose the path for ourselves and we definitely chose the one less travelled by with ups and downs and pot holes and garbage heaps and water clogged roads. I know we are so brave! A line of consolation is definitely needed post a walk like this!
Article and Images by: Pallavi.