Delhi Diaries: Meet The Teenager Exploring The City On A Cycle
Aryan Sachdeva, a young bud of just 16, is an avid explorer and chronicler of the city. He lives in Delhi and juggles his studies and his passion for urban exploration. Travelling responsibly, Aryan spans the length and breadth of the city on his cycle, hoping to leave its imprints on the sand of time. He takes us on a journey to his travel memories, his passions and hobbies, his favourite spots and activities, and his plans with the act of writing.
Tell us about yourself. How did your interest in history, and Delhi’s history in particular, develop?
I'm a 16-year-old storyteller from Delhi and always on the look-out for hidden gems in the city that only some know about. I hop on my cycle and explore, seeking out these fascinating places that are often overlooked. Through my blogs, I aim to tell the stories of these forgotten places that are now lost in history.
I started my journey into the unknown when the COVID-19 outbreak began. Bored at home, I decided to venture out with my friends and explore our city's history, get to know its people, and discover its hidden treasures. I pedalled for miles, covering 30, 40, and even 50 kilometres a day, all to explore old and forgotten Delhi.
Sometimes, I wandered through the streets of Old Delhi, and other times, I marvelled at the modern wonders of Hauz Khas, searching for traces of the old capital of many empires. These adventures fuelled my love for Delhi's rich history and hidden stories.
Do you hope to pursue this interest further in your life? How do you plan to channel it?
Urban exploring is a topic that I am deeply passionate about. It has been a significant part of my life, and I am eager to continue exploring and growing in this area. To channel this passion, I plan to indulge in writing more often and make the story of forgotten places available to a broader audience in India and abroad. In the future, I plan to write more blogs and books on adventures that would encourage more students my age to explore more and lose themselves in endless adventures.
Give us an insight into your book "Chai and Chaos."
"Chai and Chaos" is a delightful coffee-table book that aims to entertain readers through its pictures and concise writing. It offers a unique perspective on the world through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old explorer, chronicling my ten most memorable escapades. The book is presented as a journal, with each entry vividly depicting my experiences, aspirations, and profound insights. From the Tomb of Safdarjung to the jungles of Sanjay Van, it takes you on an unforgettable journey of discovery. It took approximately 100 hours to design and two years to achieve this dream.
Apart from the heritage and monuments, do you also tend to explore the natural history of the place? What have your findings been?
It's important to me to appreciate the heritage and monuments of the places I visit and understand their natural history. Knowledge about a location's natural environment is crucial to appreciate its heritage comprehensively. For instance, when I visited Sanjay Van, I took the opportunity to explore the natural surroundings. I went hiking around the lakeside and was fascinated by the diverse flora and fauna. I even saw ducks in their natural habitat, which was truly a fantastic experience.
For our readers, please tell us about a handful of monuments which are a must-visit.
Delhi has several iconic monuments showcasing impressive architecture, historical significance, and cultural and artistic importance. For those interested in exploring the city's rich history, here are a few recommended monuments to visit:
Mutiny Memorial: Situated in the northern part of Delhi, near the Old Delhi Railway Station, the Mutiny Memorial is a red sandstone structure built in the late 19th century to honour the British and Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The monument's Indo-Gothic architectural style, intricate detailing, and central tower with an ornate canopy make it a must-visit.
Zafar Mahal: Located in the heart of Mehrauli, an ancient and historically rich neighbourhood in Delhi, Zafar Mahal symbolises the final years of the Mughal Empire and the end of an era. The monument features a blend of Mughal and Indian design elements, including arched doorways, decorative domes, and intricate stonework.
Malcha Mahal: Hidden within the dense forest area of the Delhi Ridge, Malcha Mahal is a dilapidated structure with a mysterious history. It is believed to have been built during the late Mughal or early British colonial periods. Despite its ruined state, the palace remains an enigmatic landmark in Delhi's historical landscape, intriguing visitors with its secrets and speculation.
In Delhi, what are a few activities and experiences that history buffs must not miss?
Delhi is a city rich in history, and exploring its historical sites can be a delightful experience for those who love history. Here are three things a history enthusiast should not miss in Delhi:
Heritage Walks: Take a guided heritage walk through Delhi's narrow lanes to discover the city's rich history.
Light and Sound Shows: While visiting Red Fort, witnessing the light and sound show is a must. The exhibition brings the fort's rich history to life through lights, music, and narration.
Mehrauli Archeological Park: This park comprises over 100 historically significant monuments, including the ruins of Lal Kot. It's the only place in Delhi known for 1,000 years of continuous occupation, making it a paradise for history lovers.
Can you tell a few of your favourite spots in Delhi?
Sanjay Van is my favourite spot in Delhi. It is a sprawling city forest area that spreads over 443 acres. The fact that it is one of the most densely wooded areas of the city makes it my preferred hideout place. I usually take my cycle and ride in the jungle until I can no longer cycle any further. The sunrise point offers the most beautiful first glance of the sun. This place is also home to various birds, such as the Eurasian golden oriole and purple sunbird. Another of my favourite spots in Delhi is the Tomb of Azim Khan, built on a hilltop. Sitting at the top and witnessing the cars and buses from a bird's eye view makes it one of the best spots in Delhi.
Tell us a work of literature on Delhi that every travel and history enthusiast must read.
If you're planning a trip to Delhi or want to learn about the city's rich history through literature, "City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi" by William Dalrymple is a must-read for travel and history enthusiasts.