It is half past 12 in the midnight and I’m suddenly getting nostalgic about Delhi, as I will be leaving the city after few months of my stay here. Why am I feeling this sense of nostalgia on a place which I hated? Why is that I’m making an attempt to write about it on my blog, though I’ve been to many other places and cherished better moments across the country? What is so peculiar or astounding and unique about this place, that it makes me ponder over so much about it? Well! May be I found the answer and this is just a result of my candor about the most influencing city in India.
What is the first thing that people tell you when asked about Delhi? The capital of India, one of the biggest metropolitan cities, the city of historical structures, city of tombs or graveyards, India Gate, city of politics, the Parliament, city of best coaching institutes for civil services (for few), one of ‘the must’ tourist spot in the country and what not! I had one of these on my mind too, until I landed in the city 3 years ago. The first thing which popped up on my mind about this place was ‘head weight’, whatever that meant! The reason for this impression was because of the arrogant, reckless and cavalier behavior of people in the city. May not be all, but at least most of them. I bet a person going abroad would feel better with our people around on an alien land, rather than getting this hostile feeling in a place which is a part of your own land.
A little background- We are South Indians and my family moved to Delhi on my dad’s transfer. The first day when we reached our house, an old woman welcomed us with a glee on her face asking ‘‘Madraasi?!” I instantly chuckled saying ”Nahin, Hyderabadi!” with a sense of pride. She immediately took us to our portion and made sure we were comfortable enough to ask her if we needed any help. Our things were yet to come to the city. So we had absolutely nothing with us. The month of June is hell with mercury rising to over 51 degrees. Our inability to bear the heat and the burning sensation in our stomachs due to hunger, made us knock the old woman’s door.
We wanted to take her suggestion on any places to eat. Once again she welcomed us as if we were her guests for more than a decade. We were amazed by the way she treated us as we no longer felt hostile. We tried removing our footwear to get inside her house, but she objected and made us come in with our footwear on and said ”In our culture one shouldn’t come inside removing chappal”. She immediately ran into the kitchen and got two large glass tumblers of tea. We looked at each other because of the size of the tumblers. Having us astonished, she asked, ” Aap chai nahin peethey ho kya?” Of course we do, but never had in such huge quantity. She also brought in some savories along with the tea which had few sweets and namkeen.
She asked about our whereabouts. Since we have been to many other places, we were well known with Hindi, which is NOT Hyderabadi Hindi with a pinch of Urdu. The woman appreciated our attempt to speak Hindi in Delhi style saying, ”Arey wah! Aap tho badiyan Hindi bolthe ho!” Once again our faces lit with delight. She later asked if our mother tongue was Tamil. I immediately interrupted saying, ”We are from Hyderabad, that’s in Andhra Pradesh, so we are Telugu people”. The old woman looked helpless and replied, ”Haan..wahi tho..South Indians ko hum Madraasi ya Kerala vallon hi samajthe hain.” I assumed that she is an old woman without much knowledge about the country of who comes from where. But I was astonished to later realize that there is a section of North Indians who are unaware that two more states of Karnataka and Andhra Pardesh fall under South India. Many facts like these startled me. But the way, the old woman treated us, I am pretty sure none of our near and dear ones would have. Hats off to her and people’s hospitality here! The culture here is far better than that down the country. People are the most trendiest and at the same time traditional in their own way.
My mother and I started our expedition of exploring the city once my dad left for work. We went to a nearby ‘mandi’ meaning market as suggested by aunty ji. She is no longer an old woman after all that she did for us. We went on searching for any eateries as she said there are a plenty of them in the mandi. But to our ill fate none of them were open as it was Wednesday and the stalls at mandi remain closed on Wednesdays. Every day a portion of the city remains closed. We went on moving to the other part of the area and found a Chinese restaurant. The happiness of winning a lottery would have been nothing compared to our joy of reaching our destination which would fill our tummies. It was like a car without fuel having found a petrol bunk. We ordered for some fried rice and chicken biryani. The waiter looked perplexed as we ordered everything rice, which is unlikely for some one from Delhi. The waiter must have made up his mind that we were ‘Madraasi‘. The fried rice was good enough as it was a Chinese restaurant, the biryani was bland with mild spices unlike the Hyderabadi one. We left the place after filling in our tanks and took a ride back home in a metro.
The most exciting and enjoyable moment for us so far was this ride. The best thing in Delhi is also the metro according to me. The magnificent city is connected well enough through metro rail, which makes commuting easier for a common man. After this wonderful jolly metro ride, we took a rickshaw from the metro station to our block B1 of Janakpuri. This ride was also as enjoyable as the metro. There are a number of blocks with numerals as Janakpuri is the biggest residential colony in Asia! Whoa! That is something worth noting for me. Another fact which I felt interesting was that every house almost had the same structure/ architecture. You enter the colony and there is a queue of houses like match boxes stacked one over the other. Each floor had a different owner which was rather weird to me as I’ve never seen such a practice. They did not have any car parking space inside the house in spite of each household having a minimum of two sedans! They park their cars on the streets and discover them to be stolen after a week. These are regular in the city.
One mantra to live in Delhi is ‘Never trust anyone and take chances being casual’. The more you dwell into the city to understand it, the more you get lost in its complexity.
Days went on, we got accustomed a bit, but not with the horrifying weather. There were power cuts for more than 6 hours a day. People here had power inverters which is a mandatory equipment in every house of a Delhiite. Water facility is available hardly for two hours a day and those two hours are very precious. No one would expect this kind of water and power problems in the city being a capital. But the fact is yes. The city has a shortage of water and electricity.
People here are obsessed with idly- sambar. They’d love every drop of sambar they gulp down. They are highly inquisitive of how South Indians eat so much rice, while we wonder how these North Indians gobble down 10-12 rotis a meal, with lots of ghee and paneer in almost every dish. This differentiation into so-called ‘North and South Indians’ in every aspect makes me realize the fact that India is rich in culture and heritage. The numerous states and languages make people from every state find the culture and habits from every other state weird or unique.
This city has some insanely good-looking people and one would love to be called an ‘Indian’ for good looks. They wear clothes bought along the road side, yet they appear as though they are clad in branded or designer outfits.Women are really pretty with most of them being buxom babes thus being a visual treat for men from down south.
Delhi being the third richest city in the country followed by Chandigarh and Goa, people spend lavishly. ‘Shop, Eat, Celebrate’ is the ‘central‘ motto of most of them. Big fat weddings or other occasions are celebrated with aplomb with lots of food, band baaja even during the midnight, without having a slightest concern of causing disturbance to the neighborhood. They enjoy life with whatever they have unlike many of us who slog in the south. Delhiites have a fetish for mobile phones and cars and one can get a glimpse of even a rickshaw-wala handling one of those fancy smart phones.
The beauty of this city is the contrast it has in every aspect. The Old and New Delhi, the extreme weather conditions with scorching heat and the biting cold, the metro rail and the rickshaw, the historical architecture and the modernized skyscrapers. Chole-bhatoore along the road side is equally relished as an Italian platter in a five-star hotel. The best of cultural events, food festivals, trade fairs, huge malls, theater and art events, youth festivals and the Connaught place form the enticing elements of Delhi. Though I hated the place for quite a few reasons, I enjoyed every moment of mine in this amalgamate of antiquated culture and contemporary lifestyle.
I stand amid one of those noisy streets and wonder what draws me so much into this city, and then I feel my inner conscience humming, “Yeh Dilli hain mere yaar!” 🙂
My Perspective on India’s capital