Qila Lal Kot: The First defense wall of Delhi

15th Jun 2021
Photo of Qila Lal Kot: The First defense wall of Delhi by Rishab Nag

Buzz! Buzz! Seemed like minutes only before I'd gone to bed and the alarm was buzzing already in full volume. It was 5:15 AM (why would one wake up so early!). Well, I was thinking the same when I set that alarm the previous day. Nevertheless, I dragged myself off the bed because today, I was up for a small adventure at a place that was just 12-15 minutes away from my residence (Kidwai Nagar) on scooty. By 6 AM I was done with my daily routine, had a bowl full of cornflakes, double-checked the photography equipment, and headed towards the basement.

It is rightly said that, when you're out of touch from almost anything, be it writing, walking, driving a car, or jump-starting a scooty, you have to take it nice and slow. However, this thought landed in my brain when the scooty crashed into the pillar, because of giving excessive race while it was on its stand :-)

Yup, that's me trying to control the runaway scooty.

Photo of Kidwai Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Rishab Nag

Anyways, water under the table, not much harm done (the front protection bar got tilted 30 degrees only). Now on, I'll be more careful (or so I thought). Next, I was on my way towards Mehrauli, the road, with almost negligible traffic, 3 consecutive green lights, and lush greenery on both sides. By around 6:40 AM (after roaming here and there trying to find the entry gate!) I parked my scooty alongside many others and entered the 443 acres, Sanjay Van.

There were two guards, one somewhere in his 50s and the other in his 30s. I asked the older one the way towards Qila Lal Kot, he pointed towards the road leading straight inside the well-trodden path. From what I've heard, I didn't expect that much crowd, at that hour especially. People (majorly locals) were walking, jogging, playing with their kids, etc. After walking for about 3-4 minutes I came across this board.

Sanjay Van Map

Photo of Kidwai Nagar, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Rishab Nag

I stared, awestruck for a few seconds, trying to digest the several sides which its 4 gates (Gorakhnath temple, Rockland Hospital, Aurbindo Marg, and T.B Hospital) touched. At that moment my eyes scanned for the "Qila Lal Kot" which, if you observe the map, is placed somewhere between A & F block. As per the directions, I took the left-most path and made my way slowly, capturing and enjoying the greenery (figuratively and literally) that my eyes fell upon. After about 7-8 minutes, I stood in front of the "2013 plantation" (you'll be able to spot it on the map, just above the "Medicinal Forest" heading). There I saw at a meter or two distance another board which spoke facts.

Photo of Qila Lal Kot, Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Rishab Nag

A rocky path (just beside this board) led me upwards and I thought, now finally, the fun and adventure part begins. Well, not so early. The path opened itself up towards a hill (the map rightly mentioned the Aravali Forest section). There were predominantly three things that my eyes took in, youngsters, Sharp rocks, and weed/grass. The sun was trying its best to receive attention by rising from the east, only to be time and again getting shadowed by slow-paced clouds. The further (uphill) I went, the better the views started to get. Looking in the direction from where I came, the only visible structure, standing tall over the forest was the Qutub Minar.

Keeping a close watch over the green cover

Photo of Qila Lal Kot, Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Rishab Nag

After taking some snaps, videos (for my YouTube Channel) and simply gazing towards the forest cover which I till this point couldn't have imagined existed, in the City of Djinns; I made my way, protruding deeper into the Lal Kot Quila. Usually, walls of forts rise high and have a narrow width. However, the walls of this fort seemed to be quite broad. Having researched a bit, I even read somewhere that horses once ran over these walls. The deeper I went, the lesser the people kept getting. I came across a father-daughter duo who, as part of their daily routine were walking over the ruins. I struck a small conversation (my inner introvert was probably asleep) with them and got to know that for the past 16 years they've been (the father actually) has been coming to this place for morning walks. The conversation took the route towards how scarce such forest covers have gotten and god knows till when will Sanjay Van remain untouched by those cranking pieces of machinery. I bid adieu to them and continued my walk over the sharp rocks which got narrower after a few meters

Then came a point where the path on which I was walking came to an abrupt end.

Pointed rocks and green cover

Photo of Qila Lal Kot, Mehrauli, New Delhi, Delhi, India by Rishab Nag

Adventure Begins

I lowered down my pace and walked further on placing my feet over the flat rocks. It was at this point that I realized that the walls of this fort weren't that small in height as they seemed when I scaled the hill. I peered downwards towards my right and there was good 8-9 ft 65 degrees or so fall till the base of the forest. My heart skipped a beat. That was the indication that things are about to get dirty and It's time to concentrate on placing foot at the right spot. From far away, I heard someone calling out to me, it was the younger guard which I mentioned towards the start. He called out to me to make me retreat from the direction I was currently headed in. But, Boy! did I listen? Nah. I heard him and waved my hand signaling that "Alright! my man, I ain't going any further."

However, I continued walking in the exact same direction. Now the rocks began to recede and along with it the elevation. I followed the course and carefully came downwards.

Into the Wild

Enter the Jungle

Photo of Sanjay Van, New Delhi, Delhi by Rishab Nag

It looked something like this and I was super thrilled. I gathered pace as there wasn't anymore the danger of me slipping and head downwards. I was at the forest's base. All I could hear now-on was the humming of the crickets, 50 types of other insects, occasional voices of the Peacock, and voices of some rare birds. I spotted an Indian Robin, which by the time I could set my lens up was nowhere to be seen. However, I was able to capture an impatient purple sunbird (female) after 20 clicks!

Here's the jumping bird

Photo of Sanjay Van, New Delhi, Delhi by Rishab Nag

Almost out of nowhere I found myself standing in front of the Lal Kot ruins. I somehow managed to climb it (Rocks, rocks, and rocks!) and stood atop it with a 360-degree view of nothing but trees. After a few minutes, as I traced my way forward, juggling and deciding almost instinctively which trail to take, I heard some voices approaching me. I developed cold feet the very next moment. The horrors that might be possible in such a secluded place were beyond my imagination at that particular moment. I grabbed a stoned from below and somehow ducked alongside the bushes. The voices grew louder ( 2 men, no 3, maybe 4?) god! show yourself! The voices somehow took shape of 2 figures, one in a blue security uniform and the other, a local kid who probably knew every nook and corner of the forest. Relieved, I dropped the stone and regained my posture. But this was not the end of my ordeal. The guard turned out to be the same who earlier told me to retreat right that second. He'd been following me, more out of concern (I guess) because rarely anyone ventured so deep into the forest.

He teased me by saying "Since the time I told you to retreat, you've been making me chase you, young man." I was amused and clarified that it's not a restricted section or something, I can head whichever direction I wish to. Observing my casual use of words, he warned me that there are a good number of snakes that will finish you off in a single bite. That, I agreed was a possibility, but the words that came out of my mouth were "I'll manage it" (a white lie). I slowly walked away from him and climbed down the rocks, to the base of the jungle, the trees in this section were less in comparison to where I came from. He and his Lil guide followed me and this time, I heard him talking to someone over the phone ("Yeh maan nai rahe hain, aap aajaiye") directing him where we were at the moment. He then came to and said, "I've had to call the police, you're not listening to me, they'll escort you outside, enough running around." Any sane person would probably have given in, now that police was being involved. But, you and I both know, I'm not that sane. I had to get rid of them. 

They both sat on a rock and the guard once again started talking to the hypothetical/real policeman, giving him directions. I slowly traced my steps forward and came into an open area with about 4-5 trails in front of me, all going in different directions. I without any further thought took the right-most trail (which was not a trail), gathered pace, jumped a few rocks, dodged thorny bushes, and left them behind, at least for now. Being aware that the Lil guy with the guard would manage to trace me somehow, I didn't stop and think a bit in which direction (sunlight and huge trees were towering over me) I was headed. The most intriguing thing was, I was Loving it! Every bit of sweat, thorny bushes brushing past my shorts, hair, shirt, face, etc. This was me in my purest element.

Then after few meters, the bushes started receding, the trees began to widen and I found myself standing on this trail. Now at least, I had something to fall back upon. Big gulps of water went down my throat (of course I was carrying a water bottle) as my heart was literally pounding and it wanted that oxygen real bad. Once my senses came back, I started following this trail for it made complete sense that at some point it'll cross the main walking track of the Sanjay Van. I walked for around 15-20 minutes on this trail and it took me through the most serene sections of the forest. The heat was up and my water breaks had increased, the humidity probably was touching the 80-85% mark. The only thing I was apprehensive about now, was the exit where I had parked my scooty. I had no clue where that exit would be, but for now, I brushed that thought aside. I had to first make it back to human habitation in one piece. After a minute or so I heard sounds of gushing water flowing nearby and after taking a turn on the I came face to face with it.

I bumped into this trail

Photo of Sanjay Van, New Delhi, Delhi by Rishab Nag

I mean, what a pleasant and at the same time surprised. I'd never imagined coming across such a freshwater body (you'd know it when you'll see it) flowing without any restrictions, here in Delhi. Had It been under different circumstances, I would've surely sat here and enjoyed myself a light snack. Taking in all that this stream and surrounding trees had to offer that too for free, would've been a rejuvenating experience. I took a snap, recorded a video of this stream, and headed forward towards the search of fellow humans. Minutes after crossing the stream, I found myself entering a dense patch of woods once again. After few minutes into it, I heard some male voices (the guard and policeman are back!?). Nah, I saw three males talking and walking over the Sanjay van track. I was out of the wilderness.

Last I checked, I was in Delhi O_0

Photo of Sanjay Van, New Delhi, Delhi by Rishab Nag

I immediately asked them for the nearby exit and they point towards the track bending leftwards. I thanked them and headed straight onto it. After a few minutes, I saw the signboard with an arrow on which it was written "Rockland hospital exit, Gate No. 3". I finally exited the Sanjay Van from Gate 3 (have a look at the map) which landed me on the Qutub Institutional Road. The toil wasn't over yet, I had to walk from Gate - 3 to TB Hospital gate on foot. It was somewhere around 4 kilometers and took me 30-35 minutes to reach the spot where now, only a single scooty stood.

I made it home by 10 AM, in one piece with an experience that I'd cherish for a long time. If you made it to this point, it means a great deal to me. Leave a genuine comment down below. Goodbye for now :-)