Thursday, August 22, 2013

Delhi Heart

I spent my growing up years in Delhi: more than half my life. I went to school and college there and worked for one year before getting married and moving to the Dooars. Yet when I go there I don’t know the city as well as I should know my home town. It doesn't seem as if I understand the layout of the city at all. That changes – or it seems to - every few months. There are new buildings everywhere. New flyovers come up, necessitating new intersections, U-turns and approach roads.

And then there is the Delhi Metro that has sliced up the city. Some roads, intersections and even buildings have vanished. Still, it is something I admire. I love seeing the stations, the escalators, and the trains arriving every two minutes. Delhi's people are making good use of the Metro service. It is the one thing that has helped me to feel a little independent when I’m there. It's freed commuters from hours spent in traffic which never seems to move, and from bargaining with auto drivers or paying criminal amounts to hire cabs. I was always comfortable in the Ladies' Compartment, right up at the front of the train. I revelled in the Arctic air-conditioning of the train itself. A Metro Rail Card freed me from long queues at the ticket counter. I could go to places like Dilli Haat, the sprawling crafts bazaar, directly by Metro. I could make meeting points with friends or with my brother who would always have a car waiting to pick me up at a Metro station in the less crowded parts of Delhi.

The overhead Metro line is a bit of an eyesore, though. It's sad to see it going past my old college. One can’t see that lovely building from the road any more.

'Running house' (my daughter’s flat) was great fun in Delhi. I enjoyed having the kitchen all to myself. Oh the audacity of being able to go out and buy what I wanted only when I needed it! No stocking up on potatoes, onions, oil, eggs or sugar for fear of being caught up short. Here on the garden the bawarchi and I buy stuff as if we're preparing for a siege. His lists look like detailed horoscope charts, long and scroll like as they are.

For many years, my husband and I longed set up house and live in Delhi. We thought it would be so romantic. Madness? Not really, because the Delhi we remembered from childhood was quite another city; it stopped in the eighties. We longed for a life free of all the complications or 'jhamela' of living in a tea garden. What little grass grows there in Delhi always seems greener to us.

(Published in The Camellia magazine)

1 comment:

Kamini said...

Oh, G, I feel the same way every time I visit Madras. I think Delhi has changed faster, and is more unrecognizable than Madras. I was there for a day a couple of years back and recognized nothing. In the end, it's the people who make a place what it is in our hearts.