Delhi lets you be. Delhi intrudes. Delhi can be very damp, and it can let you breathe too.
For three consecutive nights, I have gotten into a conversation about Delhi with someone or the other. With someone, I was defending the culture. To someone else I was explaining how the stereotype does exist in reality. With another person I was discussing how Delhi is probably cosmopolitan in the truest sense of the word for the sheer coexistence of conflict and blend that people manage between them. And then I talked about the one cause and movement that I feel strongly about… Blank Noise.
The Delhi that I know… the Delhi that I have seen and experienced..t he Delhi that lives in my heart, and this is what my mind thinks of Delhi….
Yes, Mrs. Sharma does live in the neighbourhood. Goldie does have a Santro with fancy ‘art’ sprayed on it. Most corners on the street do stink of fomenting piss. The large, green trees do beautify the even larger roads. Most chaat walas serve chaat that you can enjoy. You really can buy clothes worth Rs 35 to beat the summer heat. The letch on the street will surely manage to come up with a creative pass. You will not drive down any busy road without a BC-MC playing in the background. You will have the prettiest women walking around in fancy market places of south Delhi. You will also have pseudo-pretty old ladies with coloured hair, make-up, bling bag and weird clothes walking around in the same fancy market places of south Delhi. You can manage to strike a conversation with an auto-wala above an average age of 35 about anything under the sun. Old Delhi will certainly not disappoint you with the food it offers. The Metro is seriously the cleanest public space. The same Mrs. Sharma will not get sleep if she does not offer you her saag and kadi if you live next door. The best blend of Haryanwi and Bihari will greet you in buses and cabs. And you can’t miss the ‘hello ji’ for most people will offer you that too. If you’re street smart and have a thing for breaking rules and getting away with them, all your narratives of funny incidents to friends will be about your rendezvous with the thullas you cross on the streets.
I can go on… but I also want to write a bit about my experience of things beyond the stereotype. Perhaps a rather myopic view, but it is what I have really experienced.
When you walk alone down a busy street, you can choose to look at the people around you who will totally engross you with their activities and conversations. You can also choose to space out and they’ll let you be as well. Board a blueline and you will get to feel the pulse of the city because it’s hard to come by a bus which does not have the radio playing in it. Delhi listens to the radio. And I cannot emphasise on this point enough. Travellers talk of a state’s dynamics changing as you move along a belt, I am telling you that you can sense the changing dynamics of Delhi just as you keep switching bus routes. Take a bus to my place on a Sunday, and you cannot fail to find groups of Mallu women on their weekly shopping trip to the INA market. You won’t just see them, you’ll hear them loud and clear. Non-stop. Sit on a bus to Kashmere Gate in the mornings, you’ll feel you’ve experienced the north campus on a bus itself. For that matter, take a 420 at 7:00 pm and you’ll feel the people look alien if your background is similar to mine. And a Gurgaon DTC at 9:30 am can be found with perfume all over because most of the people on it are white-collared professionals.
(This just makes me realise that I’m done with my share of travelling in buses. 😐)
Anyway, moving on…
Wherever you may turn your head, you will find a frame worth capturing. The most innocent-looking kid looking to have fun his way, the dog playing with a bag of trash, the old lady haggling with the fruit vendor, the old men’s group sipping tea together, the couple with strong beliefs in PDA, the consortium of ice-cream wala bhaiya, churan wala bhaiya, gubbare wala bhaiya, and all the bhaiyas sitting together and cooking up unknown stories. The colours of different seasons in the air, the colours of different brands on bus shelters, and the colours of different cultures floating around in human form.
At the same time, Delhi is generous with the space, the smiles and the warmth it gives you.
If you didn’t know already, I’m homesick and I want to be with my family right now. I know it’s just another week left, but the term’s been too long. Waiting for the flight to take off.
And for the lack of flow and abruptness of this post, blame the work that I brought to the last minute which made me write this post in parts.