New Delhi can sometimes feel like an overdose of sights and sounds, but once you’ve left, these are what you’ll remember the city by. As frustrated as I can get with the traffic and looseness of time here, there are a few especially stunning sights that always make me stop in my tracks, take a metaphoric deep breath, and then (often against my will) fall a tiny bit in love with the city again. For me, the best sights here vary; some of my favorite views look over important historical or political monuments, while others are windows onto the city’s modern-day progress (a brightly lit drive by the airport can sometimes make even a gridlock look sort of picturesque). You may not be fortunate enough to be in town at specific times of the year like Republic Day or Eid, but if you are, the views you’ll enjoy here will last for a lifetime. These are some of my favorite views in New Delhi.
Right by the airport is a stretch of tiny hotels, whose business I don’t really want to acquaint myself with—but their myriad signs brightly ablaze in neon lights makes for a strangely dazzling sight. Even visible landing into Delhi on evening flights, this lit-up strip is one the first signs to me that I’m back in my home city.
In many of the older towns in England, city planning laws require that the dome or steeple of a particular cathedral must always be in plain view. I wish we had the same rule for the Qutb Minar—because there are few sights as reassuring to me as this looming minaret. It’s a symbol of standing tall and proud, through adversity, prosperity or otherwise. Watch out for it when you’re on the yellow line of the Metro; when you spy it, you’ll feel all’s right with the world.
“Shanti” means peace; “path” (pronounced here as “puth”) means what its English equivalent does. This is literally the path of peace, and is home to many of the embassies and diplomatic missions that find themselves in Delhi. A drive past the green lawns and fluttering flags that belong to no country or consequence is a really beautiful drive. On this tiny stretch, the world comes together.
Rashtrapati Bhavan on Republic Day
The president of India resides in a beautiful 1920 building, which is sequestered from the rest of the world by iron gates that demand obedience. But once a year, on January 26th and 27th, Rasthrapati Bhavan lights up with thousands of twinkling fairy lights whose brilliance reaches out to us, even as we stand exactly where we always were.
Jama Masjid on Eid
If you happen to be in Delhi over Eid, head over to Jama Masjid. Rows upon neat rows of people bow their head in prayer at the mosque; the simple synchronization of this spiritual act is enough to fill you with humility and gratitude. It’s a sight you’ll want to remember—as someone I know once said, for people of all faiths and no faith at all.