26 May, 2008


Having realized that my track record with completing tags from Marvin was abysmally low, I thought I’ll do this one promptly. And thankfully the topic interests me. No end.

For the uninitiated I am writing about Delhi, the place I have called home ever since…well forever. The place where I began in is the place I am at now. This is that stage where things are threatening to come full circle (talking of complete circles at this age? Ouch! Geometry and philosophy in one sentence? Ouch ouch!).

Let’s start at the beginning. It’s always the easiest. I started my journey in this city at the unassuming and insignificant age of two, rotund and toothy, the blob of the family, singing ding dong belllllllll with alarming conviction and diction. The family was just back from Riyadh, we were setting up house on our seventh floor flat and things were at not at their best (I am relying heavily on oft-repeated stories since, if you care to remember, I was barely off the ground, with mental faculties of well, a two year old). I graduated from playschool and joined Girl 1 in a proper school. It was as if I had found a pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. I got an i-card (that felt big) and a hanky (yay).

My earliest impressions of Delhi are those of two faces getting up early, ungodly-hour early, putting on a ridiculously checked uniform, gulping down milk as Amma counted, making sure we went till the bottom, getting Vaseline lathered onto our faces with disturbing abandon and then rushing off to catch the school bus. I learnt to distinguish between Delhi’s sharp weathers - in the summers, the mosquitoes would nip at our legs as we waited for the bus, in the winter flies stuck to our stockings. I remember squinting in the fog at 6:00 am trying to figure out if the bus that was hurtling towards us was indeed our school bus. “Yes it’s the rectangular head lights. It’s ours.” (Those rectangles used to make the bus look like a menacing monster and I positively detested them). And we’d be off. My routine revolved around school, craft projects, being scolded at biting my nails, narrating my day in great detail to Amma who (I don’t know how) always had the time and inclination to listen to me, waiting for Shobha who would get us surprise goodies a treat for any kid – trinkets today, a packet of phaalsa tomorrow, a bubblegum or two, an amar chitra katha. Delhi in those unassuming days started from school, stretched into afternoons where lunch was hogged down beside cartoons, where sleeping in the afternoon seemed such a waste of time (I really want to know what happened to me as I grew!) and home-made ice lollies were relished with utter joy. That gave way to seemingly long sessions of homework under Amma’s strict supervision and finally the much awaited evening playtime. “Alligator, alligator, can we cross the golden river?” Chor-police, vish amrit, my red letter, tippy tippy top, making nonsensical music (yes there was this song that went: O witches are horrible O witches are terrible O witches are bad but never sad) etc etc. Girl 1 and I never could understand why we would be called back home as it started turning dark, why we couldn’t play forever, oh the why’s of childhood. The building I lived in and its three geometrical gardens with their flowers and their sunbirds, the dhobiwaala and the slide near his house, the Nancy-Rancy-Mansi sister trio, the treasure hunts and WWF card sessions summed up Delhi for me those days.

It is usually a bit difficult for things to carry on the way they are when they are so good. Delhi days came to an abrupt end, flinging us (un)knowingly into a whole different dimension of paradise but let me not digress (as usual). And it took an entire nine years for me to return to the city which had seen me shit in my pants (literally), lose my way (kept sleeping on the school bus and landed in some corner of Vikaspuri…ah now I see when the Kumbhkaran characteristics crept upon poor little me), live through overwhelmingly long powerless summers and learn that cricket was to my country what stagnant water must be for mating mosquitoes. After my hiatus from everything Dilli, I was introduced into a picture I strangely didn’t feel a part of. Mc. Donalds and bus rides? College and a new set of friends? Coloured clothes everyday and the internet? I felt orphaned, a Gwaliored girl caught in the bustle of Delhi. People asked me all the time, “Where are you from?” I’d explain how it was so complicated, how I belonged to a crazy number of places, and how figuring where I was from would be as daunting as flying a kite on a still day, better still, trying to find those freaky mosquitoes, separating them and thus (triumphantly) saving our country from malaria. So I was swimming in this queer sense of utter unbelonging, bewildered by the Delhi I witnessed through my wary, uninitiated eyes.

Summer vacations were certainly not the topic I wanted to touch upon right now. So I will not. With its characteristic charm, Delhi brought me around. I made friends that I know will last me a lifetime, I was enjoying the uselessness of my course, I was traveling often, I was slowly approaching utopia. I learnt how you must always buy a ticket as soon as you get on to a DTC bus for you will be challaaned 100 precious rupees and no amount, please note, NO amount of cajoling, pleading, simpering will make the officials listen to you. I learnt that Delhi was a splendid cocktail of contradictions, it flaunted pot-holed roads and the expanses of Lutyen’s foresight with equal ease, the slums and the malls sprung up with equal ferocity, the sedans and the rickshaws jostled with equal intensity on the roads, the glitz of a PVR and the pan-splattered corners of Regal co-existed without any qualms. How men of all economic/social/age classes would letch no matter what. How G.K girls always seemed to have just walked out of a parlour. How school girls would tuck up their skirts in front of my college in a not-so-coy manner. How DUSU (Delhi University Student Union) politics were a mix of too much money and boisterous campaigning. How shopping in this city was unparalleled. U N P A R A L L E L E D. How the winter chill and torturous summer were over and underrated respectively. How the city got pretty mucky in the rain and the drainage system was such a killjoy. Yes, Delhi was determined to show off all her wares to me. And in the bargain readopt a returning daughter.

The left side is Ghalib's bungalow, preserved in a galli in Old Delhi, the right side is the other part of the bungalow in which an STD booth has been opened illegally. irony separates them.

The last two years have ushered in the third leg of my education, cushioned by the proximity of familiar faces, studying something I loved and finally feeling, if not behaving like an adult. Now, I began discovering Delhi with a passion quite unknown to my lazy self. CP and her charming park brought back memories of two teeny girls in chicken kutta pajamas (I couldn’t pronounce kurta at that age) going for a meal to Bercos. Stretching my legs on the grass as I munched through an éclair from Wengers. Watching the pigeons flutter in a synchronized whoosh as I walk towards TGIF. Enjoying a cheerful evening of music at @live. Hogging Jamaican almond fudge at Nirulas (they still have that scheme in which anyone with As on their report card can claim a triple sundae. I went there in class 3 demanding my sundae and they were obliging enough to ignore the ‘B’ I’d managed in handwriting!). Next, I discovered Delhi’s historically rich tapestry. Running my hands over the intricate patterns of Humayun’s tomb, marveling at Qutub Minar and the temple pillars that were used to make the mosque complex, posing in front of Safdarjung’s tomb, walking through the landscaped lanes of Lodhi Gardens, dodging cuddling couples and dogs alike. Red Fort’s extravagance and Chandni Chowk’s convoluted lanes. The serenity of a walk at Hauz Khas, the peace at Lotus temple. Where would I find history, romance, peace and colour blend into such a lovely melody as in this city? The Delhi of yore is now embracing her newfound extremities of glitz. After traversing the length of this city, after traveling away from her and then back again, after facing some of my toughest and most trying times here, I now know.

This, time around when someone asks me where I belong, I can answer with an assured grin, “Delhi of course.”

Now that I have narrated this strange tale, I would call upon certain unwilling souls to do the same. I, therefore, tag
Girl 1, Nive and Haru.


  1. Heh, was your hanky pinned to your uniform with a safety pin? ;)

  2. Yup! Folded into a demure triangle.

  3. dear blob, it was "dind-dong-DELL!i remember it so clearly. after hearing that, i could never say ding-dong-BELL!!!the L-part was pronounced with so much glee that the little tongue climbed onto the upper lip!

  4. Ha ha..even I remember the Triple Sundae scheme at Nirulas, Vasant Vihar..McDonalds stands there now..but as far as I remember, they offered it if you had a 90% total score...I remember looking at the poster on the wall and thinking when I was going to be lucky enough to avail it...it never happened....sigh

    And yes, as with Marvin, I'm not saying the obvious here too.

  5. bahut lamba post hai.. par achha likha hai :)

  6. G: only you could've remembered that!

    Piper: I managed just once and I still remember marveling at how BIG a triple sundae was!

    Abhi: I could've gone on forever! But decided to be kind to you people.

  7. @triple sundae for straight As ... I wish I had lived in delhi my school life. :|


  8. Comments do not matter. You should get this straight;
    When such ideas and such words do decide to mate.
    So let me refrain from stating what's been said.
    Dwell upon the boring, stuff never meant to be read.

    Be it Delhi, the rustic Lucknow, or chaotic Bombay
    Each city has a story. What might differ is the way
    In which it is told. Yours you might dearly love;
    While the others despise theirs. Not a treasure trove.

    Yet the fact does remain that they can never let it go.
    For what's an album if it has just happy faces to show?

  9. nicely narrated n wonderfully said by marvin - loved his comment absolutely bcoz somehow, i don't wanna look back at sweet times that i had in the city where i grew up - instead i want to look at how each hurdle was overcome and what i should now do to make sure i dont step over other problems now :)

    great narrate again 'princess banter' :)

  10. prasoon: Cities just translate into stoic mentors...watching over us etc etc. Marvin's comment is applause-worthy, as is his post on his city.

  11. oo .. reminds me of old times, and weird how the small icard felt soo huge then :)

    wonderfully written :)

    and yay i got tagged.

  12. :) Nice... After crossing Ghalib's haveli, you walk a little further and you get awesome Nihari and Habshi Halwa also!

    Hankies! Oh yes, the pinning of hankies with the Id card! I used to like teachers who didn't need to look at the Id card to remember kids' names...

    Oh... I love this city. Love...!

  13. you paint quite a picture! wonderfully written, hung onto every word and memories came rushing!! lovely.

    you left nothing for me to add

  14. haru: yaying is fine. Go write.

    JD: Its funny how it hits you. I actually LOVE a city. Like seriously LOVE it. Its a nice comforting feeling :)

    Girl 1: Nevertheless, write to have to :P



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