Delhiwale: A ‘dystopian’ walk on Chelmsford Road
Public Interest: It’s the site of nuclear blast in a novel, but nothing here could instigate you to imagine such a scenedelhi Updated: Jul 10, 2017 15:14 IST
This is the road that will be nuked, if you allow yourself to be swayed by the fantasy of an author. Humphrey Hawksley says in his apocalyptic 2003 novel The Third World War: A Terrifying Novel of Global Conflict. “The 20-kiloton warhead, which had exploded 1,600 feet above Chelmsford Road, midway between Connaught Place and New Delhi railway station, had demolished everything. Temperatures at the blast areas would have reached 3,000 degrees Celsius. The heat had no discrimination. Nothing appeared to have survived.”
This mile-long stretch, named after a British viceroy, is not worthy of such high drama. Though it is traffic-heavy due to its proximity to the railway station, it remains silent and serene. The road’s inner life is rich but unobtrusive. A man sells booklets of romantic poems on the street; a woman sells fruits. There is a shaving salon and a chai shack. There are wandering chaat vendors. The homeless sleep on the pavement.
The road is also home to senior railway officers. Their apartments and bungalows are protected with high walls, which are sometimes used to dry clothes. Some of these moss-covered enclosures are plastered with notices for missing people. One Hom Prashad Tijali whose “skin colour” is “neither so black nor so white” was last seen at the Main Bazaar near Paharganj.
A landmark on Chelmsford Road is the white-painted Buddhist Pilgrims Guest House, run by Sri Lankan High Commission. The white-coloured Abdul Ghani Masjid is small but affecting. Covered with green creepers, the mosque is without an obligatory dome. Almost level with the road, it looks as inviting as a summer resort. If there was indeed a calamity, you could imagine it to be a shelter.