Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Garden of Nonsense

A 'family trip' was in the offing. It was rare that the four of us were in the same city and a plan was hastily made. After a few queries we shortlisted a couple of places. Two of my architect friends had recommended this Garden of Five Senses as a decent tourism spot (Rupesh, Shweta - I'll deal with you later :D). Location wise it fit with our plans and thus we made a trip this Sunday. As would be obvious from the post title, it was miserable. Albeit I haven't come across any visitor reviews, the official and tourism descriptions are morbidly saccharine. The truth must be told.


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"Located in Said-Ul-Azaib village, close to the Mehrauli heritage area, The Garden of Five Senses is an attractive park developed by Delhi Tourism Transportation Development Corporation. Visitors can relax, enjoy the park's amenities and take a break from the daily routine of their hectic lives, as well as develop a greater sensitivity to the environment."

Factually, the first sentence is correct. The site lies off Badarpur-Mehrauli road. Once you are around a mile away from the garden, the route is plastered with abject directional boards, as if an odd visitor might choose to wander to the nearby landfills. They point disobediently in varied directions. As soon as we saw the logo of Delhi Tourism alongside, our expectations plummeted. Nevertheless, we decided to go through the experience.

"The project was conceptualized as an answer to the city's need for leisure space for the public, for people to socialize and unwind. Such spaces add atmosphere and life to a city and cater to all sections of the society."

All tourism websites maintain this stance of this garden 'catering to everyone'. Has the Zoo, Delhi Haat, Kutubminar or India Gate somehow become biased or unsuitable for any age group/caste ? The farce permeated into other features. The parking lot itself was a miniature version of quota system - A clump of Bicycle Parking, Handicapped Parking and Administration Parking. The relevant visitor parking was thrown out into untarred dusty territory. The checkpost blockade read "Stop Here For Parking The Garden of Five Senses". The horror had begun.

Since the writeup mentions sections of society, I must inform you that there were 2 groups in the park. One was us, and the other was as we like to call it Shady Couples. Shady concurrently refers to three things - the dark skinned male Delhite with a made-up clingy girlfriend, the dark shades that he wears, and the shady activities that they plan to indulge in within the garden.

The guards were obviously pained by the latter. So although the garden is meant for people to socialize and unwind (as the description suggests), the administration has gone for a quick-fix solution. Every other lamppost, pillar, rock had a "SITTING PROHIBITED" pinned on it.


The stones below such signs had obviously been carved for our bootius-maximus. The lush fountains (had they been working) would have liked an audience for admiration. But the series of barricades, ropes and signages spoke another language. We thus rarely stayed in a spot for long - propelled by impatience rather than any obedience to the directives.

"The garden itself is divided into distinct areas. On one side of the spiral walkway is the Khas Bagh, a formal garden patterned on the lines of the Mughal Garden. Slow-moving water cascades in channels along its length, while flowering and fragrant shrubs and trees line its paths. The Central axis leads to a series of fountains, some of which are lit up by fibreoptic lighting systems."

Reality: The water cascades are dry and there is nothing Khas about the Bagh. Delhi Tourism spots usually have misssspelt and grammatically incorrecting descriptions of various spots and sculptures. Given a tight budget of 10.5 crore, I guess they decided to do away with that. Instead, we have friendly signboards. The first board had 3 items - prominently spelling TOILET. A subtle hint by the Government - 'Loosen up. This will take a while.' A few signboards inside had both West and East Bagh indicated in the same direction. That's when we decided to follow our own path.

"The garden has many unique features which makes it different from other parks. Not only is its beauty marvelous, it also has a lot to offer in terms of education....The garden is a wonderland for children and adults alike, who are virtually starved of this bountiful natures gift."

It is a good idea to create a garden promoting natural beauty. But transplanting a variety of flowers and embedding a tiny board next to it is a failed archaic method of evoking appreciation. A visitor's attention is rarely kindled by the Latin origin of the flower' name. A boxed space containing a dozen varieties of cactus is dull and reminds one only of excess thorns!

"The garden is also an art lovers delight. About twenty-five different sculptures and murals were brought together for this project making it one of the largest commissions of public art in the country. The artists were selected as per norms, by a special committee set up for this purpose."

I leave it to the readers to imagine a government committee selecting artists based on their work. Finally what has been achieved is an amalgamation of nothingness, a rude collection of art pieces each speaking their own language (often gibberish). Here is a sample. This odd set of smiling kids (the white ones) now lies dilapidated, with headless pieces and steel rods peeking out of them. This picnic snap has apparently been clicked in the garden's early years.


I do not aim to attribute the poor quality to vandalism. There were also other sculptures, atop mounds - untouched yet ugly. The art aspect of the park is conceptually flawed.

"Majestic rocks stand silhouetted against the sky, others lie strewn upon the ground in a casual yet alluring display of nature's sculptural genius. It was the ideal ground on which to realize the concept of a public leisure space that would awaken a sensory response and thereby a sensitivity to the environment."

There is nothing majestic about the garden. The largest building at the entrance houses the administration. One frequently encounters urine enriched corners. At those points only the sense of smell is evoked (not sight, sound ... I won't describe the other senses!).

And yes there were dogs!

Lots of them - snarling, sleeping, wandering, spying. I am certain they contributed to the fragrances mentioned above. We were never at peace, constantly encountering the beasts. They seemed to know their way around the garden, which annoyed us even more. I don't know if was the effect of refreshing sights-sounds, or just the Mehrauli area, but they all looked exceptionally scary and aggressive.

"A visit to the Garden of Five Senses leaves you feeling quite refreshed. The sight of the plants and flowers, the sound of the melodious wind chimes, the aroma and taste of different cuisine and the feel of the sun-warmed rocks and stone benches in the amphitheatre, where you can sit and rest after a tour of the park, feeling pleasantly fulfilled."

As we dug out our car from the lumpy parking lot, the guard gruffed for the parking ticket. Given a heavy traffic of two cars, this man obviously was running a tight ship - ensuring six sigma standards set by the Delhi Govt. He gruffed once more, hoping to pick up a tiff about payment. My dad found the correct ticket, slapped it into his hand and sped off.

"Colour, fragrances, texture and form all come together in an evocative bouquet that awakens the mind to the beauty of life and invokes a grateful prayer for the gift of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste."


Here is a summation of senses that the Garden of Five Senses really evoked:

Fear - of being bitten by the pack of rabied dogs
Disgust - evoked by the shady couples and the urine smell
Laughter- created by the masterpiece headless and misshaped sculptures
Impatience - caused by the lack of a single interesting item in the garden
Disillusionment - after reading all the online descriptions

Moral1: Stick to KutubMinar when making Travel Plans
Moral2: Don't believe what architects tell you :D

Source for excerpts - 1,2,3

10 comments:

  1. "dark skinned male Delhite with a made-up clingy girlfriend"
    hahaha ...

    Next time you should go with a girl wearing dark shades and then blog about how the guards tail you

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  2. Unchi dukaan Fiki pakwaan.... absolutely hilarious desciption

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  3. bahut lamba likh diya yaar..the idea of including official tourist descriptions was good, but it made the post really long. and i bet a visit to chandigarh would have been better.

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  4. hehe..reminds me of the first time I went to see the Charminar.. one was expecting a monument amid gardens and stuff.. it was just an archway in the middle of a bustling old-hyderabad lane (not even a street!)..

    it happens.. mostly only in India ;-)

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  5. Hilarious.
    Hope you dont start reviewing more "tourist destinations" in Incredible India.
    Your blog would be soon shut down by India Tourism, in that case ;)

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  6. Everything is an experience, even this.

    Savour it :)

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  7. @Mallu: Yes. I'll be on the lookout for a clingy girlfriend now :)

    @Reema: thank you :)

    @Sidhu: yes. But remember, the trip was even more long and painful!

    @Priya: Now I can happily remove that from my must-visit list of Hyderabad!

    @Nikhil: Yes. I'll look forward to such a strong retort. the truth must be told!

    @Anil: That is a poignant generalization. 'No two ways about that :D'

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  8. haha! funny as hell.

    and dude. stick to writing nonsense about nonsense. we readers looking for comical respite don't especially appreciate being waylaid by cinthol posts. we have agencyfaqs for that.

    so, turn up the crankiness that we all like this blog for. (speaking of crankiness, loved the 'happy to yelp' post as well. was too lazy to comment.)

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  9. oh. my experience has been quite different. I have always been there after the sunset and never into the garden. The idea is to go to this really good restaurant there - called babuji ka dhaba. Very relaxing and good food and peaceful, not noisy, not crowded kind of place.

    I recommend a trip to Babuji ka dhaba, the restarurant and not during the daytime.

    For the daytime, IHC is good!

    Swapnil

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  10. haha.. its always fun to feel "tera nahin kata hai abhi tak"...

    although tera kat gaya, its one written nicely..

    and what odds.. I read your post today and just browsing found another reference.. http://www.orkut.com/Album.aspx?uid=9819175498704879024&aid=1211543411

    You are not alone! phew..:P

    ReplyDelete