Thursday, 7 June 2012

Delhi: Love in Cracked Pavements

It has been home to Ghalib and some choice galis. No matter which side of that word play you field, you can’t deny it. You have to live Delhi, to experience it. You have to be angered, have complained about the heat and prayed fervently each time you crossed the road.

A lot has been written about the city, a lot lost in subtext and most scribbled on the beautiful monuments within its spidery walls. Delhi for me, as a child, was a vacation home. Until I started college, that is. Since then, I have been having an indulgent, passionate affair with the city. Because that is the only relationship it can have.

The dry heat will creep up on the back of your neck, like an abusive lover.  It will leave you writhing for water, an oasis or a really cold drink. But then it rains, and one of the greenest cities in the world, looks coyly back at you. There is of course, the other little problem on how women here are unsafe and always dressed to go to prom. The second allegation, I have always found insulting and the monstrosity of the first, scary.
Every time someone complains about how Delhi girls dress, I wonder who they have been speaking with. Just because we don’t spend every weekend in a pajama and a ganji does not make ‘us’, Christmas tree- like.
See, that’s the thing about Delhi. You could be living here some years and suddenly you start your own, us versus them, war. Delhi grows on you, and not in a subtle, cultured metropolis from the West, way. It grows on you like a Dhol beat- loud and thumping. A  melody independent of lyrics, and suddenly, you’re uninhibited-  dancing in a glorious chorus of your own sweat.

There’s the vibrant, cultural, often hipster movement that the Hauz Khas crowd ascribes to. There’s all that history and food, squeezed together in meandering, entangled lanes of Chandini Chowk.  William Dalrymple, said " Delhi has this concertinaing history: growing suddenly, and then shrinking again,and then growing again—it’s kind of like one of those jellyfish that you might see in a nature film, expanding and contracting." From Chawri Bazaar, to that shop where you can get the ‘desi girl ’ sari knock off. There's Jama Masjid, which can awe, and the qawaali at Nizamuddin which slowly seeps into your veins.

There is a different Dilli cruising the night. Those famous expat parties, will make you feel a doppelganger of the city lives in seedy North Delhi bars.  There is a vibrant stereotyping of it’s different children. Dilli is partial to its well to-do, good looking and affluent child- South Delhi. West Delhi, is the child who grew up rash but with such a ‘good heart beta’ (visible in the “Daddy’s gift” as favoured choice of bumper sticker). East Delhi is the child that South Delhi won’t really talk in public with. And, North Delhi, is a little bit of everything. Depending on whether you’re seeing it from Kamala Nagar or Pitampura.

Sometimes, Delhi is the ‘con’ of every argument- you never fully understand if you belong or if it owns you. Sometimes it is the screaming space in a room- space to spread your arms and twirl around, as many times as you want. Or the space and expanse of Lodhi Garden, where lovers, joggers, tweeters while jogging, and picnickers all cohabitate.

Different people internalise Delhi in different ways.

Did you catch Delhi in the fake accent of the fresh return from ‘Landan’ and ‘Swizerlan’. Or, did you catch a whiff of Delhi in the poverty and squalor under our biggest over bridges ? You could have smelt it, in whiffs at your favorite kebab haunt. You  feel like you own the city behind the wheel of a powerful A4 Beast, or you  feel lost while manoeuvring your cycle amidst the world’s angriest drivers. Either way, you met with Dilli, didn’t you? It probably asked a lot of questions. About who you were, who your daddy was, what you did and what car you drove.
 Of course, it spoke more than it listened. But behind all the talking fast, wild gesticulation and obvious pride at being the Country’s capital- you felt a warm, large hearted hug. You were invited to eat food fit to be served to kings.

Dilli, is assimilation and rejection in a single breath. Every defense of the city is tired admittance to faults, and acknowledgement of a truly impenetrable spirit. A spirit inherited with the gore of Partition. People came, eyes glazed with loss, and started over. It is this starting over, that the city represents. A chance to start over and over again, with a spirit made of Teflon.

You see, there’s something to be said, about a city named after the most complex, inexplicable, often misunderstood human organ. Dilli really is.

                                                Dilli Haat
                                                Photo Credit :


  1. K, this one's straight from the heart,eh? Really nice!

  2. Unknown, Thank you, most of them are- this especially was :)

  3. "Delhi grows on you, and not in a subtle, cultured metropolis from the West, way. It grows on you like a Dhol beat- loud and thumping. A melody independent of lyrics, and suddenly, you’re uninhibited- dancing in a glorious chorus of your own sweat."

    Keep writing =)

  4. Vikram Singh- Thank you :) !