Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Delhi (dah-lee)

I've always had a love-hate relationship with Delhi... and no, it's not the cliched 'i love to hate' kind of thing either. It's... something else.

I have spent the longest time of my almost-nomadic life in Delhi - a total of 12 years. It's a really long time to spend in a city known for its chauvinistic attitude, unsafe streets, daylight rapes-kidnappings-muggings and where eve-teasing is so rampant as to be almost invisible.

It was when i realised that i was developing a chronic backache from the constant hunching and holding my arms in front of my chest that i decided to run. And oh, i ran. All the way across the country to Pune, the land of black soils and unimaginable freedom (comparitively speaking, ofcourse).

My next tryst with Delhi then began 3-4 years later when i fell in love with a Delhi-boy. It was ironic actually that i had to run away to find someone who was actually already in my friend circle. I hadn't noticed him ever while i was there. Very Alchemist. It was also a reflection of who i would have been had i continued living there - a closed-off person who lived in fear and gave an inch to no-one.

This time however, things were better. Probably because by then public transport was a thing of my past and interaction with the masses was kept to a minimum thanks to boyfriend-bodyguard always being around during the once-in-two-months trips that were undertaken. But what irked was that one needed those separators in place to be comfortable.

Back in Mumbai i would soak up the freedom, the mental space and the comparitive safety, while shaking off the remnants of the Dahlee Dust. When the romantic relationship ended, so did the renewed acquaintance with the city. Good riddance, i felt.

And then recently i found myself back there, now moving mostly between Le Meridien and Karol Bagh. I was there for a work assignment and was quite surprised to see how much Delhi has changed. It's become bigger and populated.. by cars. Coming from a city where one finds people on the streets regardless of the time of day/night, i was a little taken aback at not seeing too many people on the roads even during the day. But i did see a lot of cars. And Cabs.

Maybe it's distance that gives you the kind of objectivity required to reassess a place. Delhi is pretty. Clean air, thanks to stringent controls, lots of greenery and flowers and a comfortable climate. The houses are spacious as are the roads. The lifestyle is laid-back. The food is delicious. But somethings haven't changed. People talk loudly. LOUDLY. Cabbies overcharge and aren't considered safe. And there is a palpable sense of boundaries - of behaviour, clothing, etc - that exists.

The common sentiment is that if all the people from Delhi were vacuumed up and replaced by Bombayites, Delhi would be the most amazing city to live in. But until that happens, Delhi will continue to be the city that makes me glad i call Bombay (potholes, prices not withstanding) home.


The One said...

Hmm.. I grew up in Delhi, and my parents still manage to live there... but I heard it said, That Delhites don't deserve their city and Bombay doesn't deserve its citizens.. and for all my ambiguous love for Delhi, I cannot but not agree.

TV said...

Haha... nomad myself, lived in Delhi just 5 years, before traversig this country. After shifting to Pune (as well!) was easy labeled being a Delhi boy. Hated Delhi when I was there but very nostalgic about it now. Work takes me to Mumbai and you know what, its a great place, i am happier that my girlfriend is inMumbai than Delhi, but the noise, the pollution and the obscene love for money - just kills it. I'd rather be in Delhi anyday.