The experience of Delhi is like walking into a myriad domain of nuances of all possible aspects. It is a beautiful intercourse of cultures, attitudes, sensibilities and perceptions. If we want to see the real face of India in all its glory and gory, it is here in Delhi!
A recent short trip to this metro, which never seems to stop, filtered in many thoughts and realizations. My association with Delhi has been since many ages, as this was and still is my ‘nanihaal’- my mom’s home ground...as she likes to say... her ‘matrabhoomi’. I remember as children, we would wait for summer vacations to commence to go to the fantastical land of our nation’s capital. For a small town-er like me, you can imagine the fixation to sprawling markets, bustling fast food centres, hi-fi theatres or entertainment galore and good looking boys who could actually talk fluent in English...hehe! Yup that dumb were my horizons!
So although just on a yearly basis, but I would like to believe that I stood witness to the metamorphosis that slowly crept in. The rise of the malls era, the rambling metro trains, the swanky lounges and pubs and the cheeky attitude of the youngsters....Delhi has been changing, for better and for worse. The paradigm shift has occurred at such a spinning pace that it is almost impossible to point to the exact junctures where the adaptation manifested.
I also remember as a growing up teenager, how desperately I wanted to pursue my higher education from here....not that I had some great ambitions to fulfil...just so I could feel the city around me. I also vaguely recollect the time when my parents had asked me if I had any conditions or requirement of a particular kind of spouse....I had racked my brain for just about half a minute and blurted with death seriousness...just that he should be based in Delhi.
“That’s it” they had asked and ‘that’s it’ is what I had said...
And then thank goodness I grew up soon enough!
It is strange how a person becomes territorial just like the animals or birds with which we share our planet. I have never proclaimed any overtly flowing affection for my humble abode...but then, now when I am away from here, even if it is for a short while or a vacation...some strands seem to pull me back most viciously. It’s like after a maximum of a week away from home and I crave and itch to return. Like with everything else, here too I go inverted...heart is where the home is!
Delhi this time could entice me enough, barely for a day.
As the train carriage shook and halted at the Delhi station, the old excitement resurfaced...hey I am in Delhi again! The huge station, crowded with coolies and guides and taxi wallas and beggars...that was Delhi for sure!
Then came on the small over crowded lanes, bifurcating into the posh and the not so up-with-it areas, autos zooming past as though in blatant challenge to the formula one racers; the blue line buses, the lost looking foreigners, the traffic situation and the long distances...Delhi was breathing and expanding....
After the initial hiccups of relatives to meet with or polite conversations that we had to indulge in, I managed to reach my ultimate goal- hedge my way to Karol Bagh- the traditional haunt of the incorrigible shopper. I know just the shops to visit, just the stops to bargain at and just the right things at the right prices to pick up. So for a few hours I was splurging my pockets out in a self created haven. Hmm...Gratified for sure as my ‘Delhi experience’ had begun! When I had got all I wanted and couldn’t possibly have handled more bags in my two bare hands, I retraced my steps back home and ready again after about an hour to explore the Connaught Place and the new malls.
With not enough booty left to splurge and all the malls offering just about the same contents....I soon got bored of it. I indulged in the restaurants and food joints to satisfy the other urges. There again, except for the delectable delicacies, was not much to entice my interest as corporate meetings ruled the roost everywhere. Big bosses and their sycophants bursting into loud guffaws or suffocating each other with their ‘gyan’; there were teenagers in the bare minimum and middle aged women giving them competition in halters and off shoulders. I got into the commuting mode on the metro and there again were young love birds practically falling on each other. There were people of all classes and cultures with varied social and economic backgrounds converging into a union of space- Men flaunting their blackberries placed next to the Haryanvi ‘jat’ in the dhoti. The metro itself sped past areas of sharp contrasts, as though taking you through a ride of actual Delhi. There were uptown areas followed by slums and middle class one room dwellings dispersing upon vast acres of land. Delhi flourishes on sky scrapers and prices of many articles attempting to reach the same dizzy heights. There were lights enough to lit up the world and blind you with their intensity. There was mad flaunting of wealth at one point and abject poverty of the slum dog at the other.
The sight and sounds of the constantly moving vehicles which were initially like the pleasant humming of a city that is alive and kicking...suddenly became like the annoying buzzing, that was almost jarring my internal peace. I had just recently seen the Hindi movie ‘Delhi 6’ which had proved to be a damp squib after seeming to be a big show of sparkle. There were in patches however, truly the shades of Delhi that the director had managed to capture- confused in its sensibilities, rushing at a maddening pace, prudish to a certain extent, outwardly modern and hip yet inwardly sly and infamously rooted; uncanny in beliefs and vulnerable...ready to get hurt and hurt others. Out of such a contrasting amalgam, nothing but a baffled generation is expected to surface. At one point they see the opulence of global branding right at their door step and at yet another is the shoddy face of the middle class desperately trying to match up.
Delhi was no longer fantastical. The childhood magic I had woven around it was slowly dispelled. I don’t know if Delhi itself is to be blamed for it or had I grown up to beget a cynical and over analytical mind. The pace at which it had progressed had left me fumbling or the fact that I had been left out from it?
Whatever the reasons, I returned home for the first time not wishing that I could have stayed longer. I returned home feeling that some places are beautiful to visit and others are matchless to live in! And like always I thank god for the small mercies reinforced in my belief that whatever happens, happens for our good.