Delhiwale: Like chai by the Seine
- A cafe that gives a most glorious view of the city’s river—the Yamuna
Is it Volga or Thames, Nile or Seine? What is this watery world? With bits of dry land jutting out here and there, the landscape looks like a vast archipelago.
This is Yamuna, and it is still Delhi.
The river slices through the Capital, travelling from Haryana to UP. Most Delhiites, however, experience it as a bridge to be crossed. For a long time, the term ‘Yamuna-paar’ condescendingly denoted the neighbourhoods on the allegedly wrong side of the river. Indeed, the Yamuna in Delhi makes its presence felt most forcefully during the monsoon, when it floods over its banks, managing to reach the news headlines. Or when it becomes so polluted that it forms picturesque toxic foam that look like drifting glaciers. Some rooftop Tibetan momo places at Majnu ka Tilla do look over the river, but there it seems barely alive.
But here on the fourth floor terrace of Cafe Karvaan, in south Delhi’s Abul Fazal Part 1, the Yamuna opens up like a grand riverfront. This foggy afternoon the watery panorama is giving the illusion of a sea—no exaggeration, you have to come here to check on the claim. The curvy road running by the river is clogged with cars and buses, and it does give the mild impression of being a poor country cousin to Mumbai’s iconic Marine Drive. Even from this distance, you can clearly see the birds flying over the river, and paddling upon its surface. A faraway tree is marooned in water, looking like the loneliest among the lonely.
The terrace cafe opened this week. It is stocked with hundreds of a great variety of books, most of which are from the private collection of its founder, Asad Ashraf. Poetry collection ranges from Mirza Ghalib to Seamus Heaney. Wall portraits include writers Virginia Woolf and Qurratulain Hyder (she lies buried in a nearby cemetery). A limited selection of tea is on offer and the place still has no menu. Which really doesn’t matter. Try to be here to see Delhi’s great river at its best. The sight is breathtaking, and it just doesn’t feel like the city you know. Preferably drop by on a misty day, when the skyline of Noida’s sector 16 on the other side of the Yamuna remains hidden, and the river seems to extend to infinity.