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Delhiwale: Facetree at Lodhi Garden

Dreamy, tranquil faces have been carved on to an almost dead tree in one corner of Lodhi Garden

delhi Updated: May 29, 2018 08:16 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhiwale,Lodhi Garden,Tree art
A carved bird, along with her babies, is one of the renderings on a dead tree of Delhi’s Lodhi Garden. (HT photo)

The sorts of faces that you’re likely to encounter at the Lodhi Garden are almost always human.

Some may be sad. Others, happy, maybe too happy. But then, there are these remarkable carvings where faces are stripped of all emotions, as tranquil as the visages of the dead.

The dreamlike expressions are appropriately carved onto the trunk of a very dead tree in a corner of the park, towards Amrita Shergil Marg.

These renderings haven’t been around for very long, carved only a few months ago, a park guard says. And they do attract attention of occasional selfie-seekers, though of course most people are pulled in by the garden’s more famous monuments.

No one in the park could tell which artist rendered these three faces, but they standout so stark ly in their haunting beauty.

On this mosquito-infested evening some romantic couples have parked themselves on benches around the faces; while a passerby refers to the tree as murti, or statue. The carvings themselves are smooth and polished but, even so, look like raw wounds.

Now, a bird perches atop a face, all by itself. This prompts one to inspect the tree more closely — discovering a carved bird, along with her babies, hidden in the wrinkled folds of the lifeless trunk. As the darkness descends deeper, the last remaining lovers depart and birds too stop chirping, leaving the etched faces all to themselves, in all their surreal serenity.

WHEN THERE’S A LOT IN THE NAME

And once again his thoughts drifted back to the time when he was a young man in Iraq.

Manbir Singh Takshak is chatting at his real estate office in East of Kailash this lazy afternoon when the conversation drifts into the actual origin of his three names.

Mr Takshak knows very well how names can conjure up tales. “Takshak, for instance, is the name of a cobra,” explains the 65-year-old.

“Maybe you’ve heard that old story in the Mahabharat about Takshak Nag (snake) biting King Parikshit.”

Then there’s his middle name of Singh — traceable to Guru Gobind Singh, who was the 10th Guru in Sikhism. While his first name “Manbir” is all tied up with a dreadful experience in strife-torn West Asia decades ago.

“Manbir means someone who can control his mind,” he says.

It was put to the test years ago when he was a technician working in Iraq during its war with Iran — Mr Takshak was part of a team involved in the construction of Saddam dam in Mosul, the city that years later came under the control of ISIS.

“We had driven to Baghdad one Friday, our weekly off, and were sitting in a café when a missile exploded just behind the building. At first I was terrified but gradually I was able to control my mind and heart… anything could have happened but we came to no harm.”

This impulse to overcome his inner fears came from his father who died last year. He gave Mr Takshak the name “Manbir”, hoping that the boy could live up to it.

Gazing at a framed portrait of Golden Temple, Mr Takshak says, “It is true that what I did in Iraq that fateful day and what I have tried to do after that close brush with death is to be deserving of this bestowal. The name my father gave me has carried me through life.”

First Published: May 29, 2018 08:16 IST