SUZANNE JENNINGS | 31 AUGUST, 2015
NEW DELHI: Walking, scientific rationale tells us, is excellent for our health. A new study has revealed that just 25 minutes of brisk walking a day can add a total of seven years to your life! Moderate exercise can halve the risk of dying from a heart attack for someone in their fifties or sixties, notes the recent study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress. The research concluded that regular exercise triggers an anti-ageing process that helps repair old DNA.
Now while all this sounds excellent, the flip side is that for those of us in Delhi, regular walking isn’t a very feasible possibility. Sure, there are gyms and a lucky few have treadmills at home -- but Delhi is by no means a “walking city.” The distances are too large, the pollution too stark, and the sidewalks entirely missing!
Sure, there is Lodhi Garden, but going for a walk in the picturesque popular spot is equivalent to being packed into a box of sardines… it’s just that crowded!
Now that I have corroborated my assertion that Delhi is not conducive to walking, let me go ahead and debunk it! I have spent the last few months discovering walking spots in Delhi and have been blown away by the variety and beauty that this city has to offer. Where else in the world can you take a brisk walk amidst medieval monuments, briefly escaping the hustle and bustle of modern day life? In Delhi you can, and below are some of my favourite hidden walking spots in the capital city.
1. Mehrauli Village
(Adham Khan's tomb, Mehrauli Village).
You’re probably familiar with the high end stores and fancy restaurants that have sprung up in Mehrauli -- one of the older cities of Delhi, dating back to 730 AD. What you’re probably not familiar with is the immensely rich history of this area, with monuments such as Adham Khan’s tomb, Zafar Mahal, the shrine of saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, and my personal favourite… Hijron Ka Kanqah, or a graveyard for eunuchs. Although this makes for a slightly busy walk given the hustle and bustle, many of these monuments have gardens. My favourite agenda for a walk in this area is to map out a route covering a few of the monuments -- which makes for a walk with intermittent spells of busy, busy streets and picturesque calm.
2. Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary
(Asola-Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary).
If city streets, sounds and smells are not your idea of a good walking spot, head on over to the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary -- a beautiful 6800 acre plus sanctuary tucked away near Tughlakabad. This protected area contains one of the last surviving remnants of the Delhi Ridge hill range, and is home to a wide variety of semi arid forest and dependent wildlife. What I love about walking in this sanctuary are its many, many lakes -- which are actually a remnant of the years of extensive mining that left hollow depressions in the terrain. Fortunately, since the ban on mining in the area, these have now filled with aquamarine water… making for a walk that you will never forget!
3. Mehrauli Archeological Park
(A Tomb in Mehrauli Archeological Park)
Another alternative to the Mehrauli Village walk is a walk through the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Spread over 200 acres and adjacent to Qutb Minar, the park meets all my criteria: history, walking paths, greenery, and proximity. It is the only area in Delhi known for 1,000 years of continuous occupation, and includes the ruins of Lal Kot built by Tomar Rajputs in 1060 CE, making it the oldest extant fort of Delhi, and architectural relics of subsequent period dating to the Khalji dynasty, Tughlaq dynasty, and the Lodhi dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and the British Raj. Highlights include the Tomb of Balban, ca 1287 CE, for which a true arch and true dome were built for the first time in India; Jamali Kamali Mosque and the Tomb of Maulana Jamali Kamali (Jamali Kamboh), built 1526 - 1535 CE; Quli Khan's Tomb; Gandhak ki Baoli; Rajon Ki Baoli,a stepwell, and Madhi Masjid.
4. Chandni Chowk
(View of Chandni Chowk)
I like to couple a walk around Chandni Chowk with a food tour -- exercise and indulge myself at the same time! I love the ambience of Chandni Chowk, although it can get quite noisy and chaotic. What I love about it though is the juxtaposition of life that is so visible in this old quarter -- Mosques and Gurudwaras share the same space, people from all walks of life walk through its streets, 17th century buildings lie adjacent to a 21st century construction. Chandni Chowk is most enjoyable in the early mornings, so every now and then I walk through the narrow streets of Chawri Bazaar and around the Red Fort and Jama Masjid, and end my walk exploring some of the delectable breakfast stalls and restaurants in the area. Every time I go, I discover a new gem. I would give you tips and recommendations, but what’s the fun in that? This coming Sunday, rise and shine at the crack of dawn, spend a couple of hours wandering through Delhi’s old quarters and end the morning with a delicious breakfast and steaming cup of chai in a small nook that you tumbled upon.
5. Hauz Khas Village And Deer Park
I am going to end this article with my go-to walking spot. I spend at least three evenings a week in Deer Park, and I am always surprised why more people do not consider this an ideal walking destination, especially given its unrivalled central location. The park, neatly divided into four different sections -- Rose Garden, Deer Park, Fountain & District Park, Old Monuments and Hauz Khas Art Market -- is truly an escape from the hustle and bustle of life in Delhi. The name is not a misnomer, the park is actually home to a large number of deer! So the next time you are headed over to Hauz Khas Village, consider exchanging the standard outing of food and drink at an over-priced restaurant for a serene walk in Deer Park!