Thursday, 15 December 2016

Delhi - A City Just Happy to Be

Winter is not my favourite season but Delhi houses two of my favourite people. And so when on Monday I was told that I needed to be in Delhi for an urgent meeting on Wednesday, I faced what I call subdued excitement. Oh my little angels were thrilled to hear that I was coming and we made plans of the storytelling session for Wednesday night too. At the same time, I warned Sequoia of my absolute need to hog the heater. And so here I am, in the still adolescent winter of this year, with a coffee mug in hand and a warm fleece around me; wondering why have I never penned my thoughts on this city that gave me some of my most cherished friends...

It was yet another move to yet another city and yet another school. I was hesitant and shy. They had all grown up together, and here as a teenager, a newcomer in me was trying to fit in. I can't remember who it was, but one of them adopted me and soon we were the five fingers of a palm. Oh we did our own things outside class but we all hung out together too. We went to Christmas parties, birthday parties, each others homes and even stood by the classroom window together to catch a glimpse of the latest Bollywood heartthrob! It was a period of seven months, and yet those seven months created a bond that has survived distances and years. 

Delhi gave me a brother in a brother-in-law. The first time ever, when I knew everyone around me was hiding the truth, he broke the news to me. Nana (my maternal grandfather) was no more. Yes my mother and Sequoia had reached too late to be able to meet him one last time, but such was life and I had to stand strong for Bonsai who was still unaware. Yes they had all hid the truth but that's because I had my last exam to write. Yes we had to tell Bonsai but we would do it after I had settled. Had it not been for him, I would not have been able to accept the truth as simply as I did. And then we went for a drive to India Gate, a place that lights up my face even today. 

Delhi was the first city that made me understand what social support means. Of course the so called support can go to the extreme of interference, in some cases; but people here have the time for family, friends and even neighbours. Community living is still a part of the culture here. It still is a place that celebrates Diwali, Holi and Independence Day in neighbourhoods with children and adults participating with equal enthusiasm. This spirit is definitely not visible or palpable in the Mighty Mumbai. 

So why have I not yet written about Delhi...I guess that's because Delhi is just happy to be. Delhi does not scream out glitz and razzmatazz, it does not force you to live a life only the way it seems fit but it also does not open its heart out to you. If you come you are welcome to find your own place in and pace of life. If you live here you will be given the opportunities that you seek. If you expect that the city, and not the people, will make you smile you are knocking at the wrong door. So Delhi has no insecurities about its place on the global map as I see it and it has been an easy part of my life; making me ignore the fact that it did lay the founding stones of friendship.

So why am I writing about Delhi now? Other than the fact that it is an important city in my life, it is because today I felt that it is also a city that has taught me to go with the flow. 

The meeting I came for was not fruitful. I was disappointed and thought maybe the trip had not been needed. Muddled in these thoughts, I was waiting for the car on the main road, witnessing the traffic jam and trying to wrap a shawl to keep myself warm. A lady walked up to me and asked me if she could find a bus from there to Dhaulakuan and I replied, "Sorry I don't know". She smiled, "why are you sorry. You don't know, that ain't your fault." That is when I realised she was depicting the city. It's ok in Delhi not to know it all. It's ok in Delhi to be a newcomer and not to know the way the city works. It's ok in Delhi to ask for help. Is that not true for life as well?

As I am on the flight back to Mumbai, and looking at this Capital from the skies above, I acknowledge that people in Delhi can be aggressive and abrasive but then they have a life. In Mumbai people can be polished and polite but they have an agenda. Delhi can be unsavoury and unsafe but it keeps things real. Mumbai is safer, not necessarily less unsavoury but more of a dreamland. And yes these are statements that stereotype, generalise and talk about my own views; but I can see how Delhi will be nonchalant about these while Mumbai will not take it kindly...and that ladies and gentlemen is the biggest difference.

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