Guest post: A meditation on parks


Welcome back from Reading Week!

Today I have for you the third instalment from Professor Shelley Hulan about her recant travels in India and England.

“Being a walker by habit and inclination, I naturally gravitate towards routes and destinations that favour the carless. This winter I’ve been lucky enough to be able to compare parks in two of the world’s great cities, Delhi and London. In metropolitan centres as ancient as these two, a couple of things are immediately apparent: First, the city’s inhabitants take their shared spaces—and the universal right to them—very seriously. Second, whatever their history (and they are likely to have plenty of it), these spaces are always working spaces. Their flora and fauna, beautiful to look at, are “ornamental” in precisely the sense identified in the OED: they are the accessories, often functional in their own right, of a larger, more important entity.

What makes these parks more important than their component parks are the ideas and attitudes implicit in visitors’ use of them. Beautiful oases in the heart of crowded urban centres, these parks are democratic. On any day of the week you will see a cross-section of society that includes people of every class and occupation, all with an equal right to the space and all using it to fulfil immediate needs: to exercise, to socialize, to picnic with friends and family, or just (a most precious possibility) to spend time in relative seclusion beneath the trees. In the parks you see in these photographs, places may be found to do all of the above, even on busy Sunday afternoons, when I took most of these pictures.

Without further ado, I give you Lodi Gardens and Jantar Mantar, both historic and archaeological sites in central Delhi, and Greenwich, St. James’s Park, and the Mall (closed to cars on Sundays) in London.”

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4 responses to “Guest post: A meditation on parks

  1. Such beautiful parks and such storied places! And still preserved for all to enjoy.It is a wonder that they have not been built over with condos or parking garages in this day and age…

  2. The residents of London and Delhi are fortunate to have such parks. History and green space melded together!

  3. I like the sequence of slides showing the Moghul (I assume) architecture of the Delhi parks followed by the late Stuart and Georgian architecture (again I assume) of London’s parks.The contrast is a visual metaphor, perhaps, of the collision of empires, both now in ruins. I love the idea that those imperial ruins are now places for everyone–and not just the upper crust of yore– to visit!

  4. I’m sorry for the wooly-headedness of my last comment; a case of a “little learning” becoming “a dangerous thing.” First, the “collision” of British and Moghul empires was more of a gradual conquest, I think, by the British, ending with the banishment of the last Moghul emperor to Burma in the 1860’s. Second, although Greenwich Palace and St James Palace might be symbolic of British imperialism and aristocracy(and are now no longer restricted spaces), they are hardly “imperial ruins” as they are still standing. I simply found the slide sequence interesting because it merges Moghul empire buildings with British palaces in the same set of slides and so suggests the intimate but tortured relationship between the two empires for about two centuries.

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