Friday, April 15, 2011

Dilli mera dil..

Mumbai meri jaan or Dilli mera dil?

Can Delhi ever be spoken of, without that invariable and implicit comparison with Mumbai?

I have heard it said often that Delhi is a difficult place to like. The urban incites extreme reactions, more often than not, one of distaste and distrust. It is the supposed rape and crime capital of the country. Regularly pilloried for being heartless and ostentatious; hollow and blasé; opportunistic and corrupt; a city of rootless immigrants with no sense of belonging or pride or responsibility. A glutton of a megalopolis where everybody is somebody and you are invisible if you are a nobody.

By contrast, relative safeties, a professional work ethic, financial muscle, entertainment Mecca are the adjectives one hears when Mumbai is spoken of.

I am hardly a true blue Delhite and far from being a Mumbai baiter. It just so happened that I came to spend a substantial period of time in the political capital of the country. I was not born here, I did not study here, I have no ancestral connection with Dilli and yet, I think I am in love with this city. I miss Delhi when I am away and there is always this sense of homecoming whether it is arriving into the ISBT, the Railway Station, the Azadpur Highway or the IG Airport.

It is a lot more than plain liking. If truth be told, the fact is that I owe a whole lot to the Rajdhani. It is in Delhi that I have spent some of my life’s most memorable years. My marriage was solemnised here; the city was and continues to be my professional home. My idealistic young years, the “I will conquer the world by age 21,” were marked here. And the most important of all, it is this culturally rich metropolitan that gave my girls direction, focus and meaning in their lives.

There are aspects of daily living in Delhi that I thoroughly enjoy. I like driving to work, listening to Radio FM. I love attending events at the Kamani. I am happy roaming around the National School of Drama. I relish the landscape dotted with tombs and relics of the Sultanate.

There are other cherished signatures in this stretch. The wide roads, the green roundels, the smart signage, the big flashy cars, the good looking and well dressed young Delhizens and the old, in no seeming hurry to bid bye to their youth. Delhi is well off and comfortable. There is a sense of plenty offset by an omnipotent sense of history. An illusion of being at the centre of the universe. There is an air of prosperity, abundance and large heartedness. I have not heard any aggrieved, envious harking back to the past in this hub. Not many tales of injustices suffered or humiliations endured. Happily enough, Delhi is quite about staying alive and getting on with it. In my fifteen odd years here, I have not known many, nursing ancient wounds and bemoaning a lost glory. People are too busy working, playing and aspiring.

A life without Gopala’s dhokla, Nathu’s Rajkachori, Keventer’s milk and Chocolate Wheel’s plum cake is unimaginable. I may not frequent these but it is reassuring to know that Chandani Chowk, Karol Bagh, and Chawri Bazaar are accessible, should I need to.
Sure, there has been the odd unsavoury day. My wallet got picked at Bangala Sahib gurudwara. Someone banged into my car at Lajpat Nagar in the parking. I have had my share of glaring motorists and rudely gesticulating VIP security men. But during the course of a typical day, were I to look around with particular care, I think I would be fortunate enough to see more than just evil on two legs. I would see ordinary people like me, going about their business.

I particularly like the Delhi Punjabi young. Yes, they swagger with that sense of propriety. They do wear their glares over their heads. They also exude a sense of entitlement. I believe they have often been accused of being predatory chauvinists. But by and large, despite their obnoxiously consumerist lifestyles, these yuppy puppies have their hearts in the right place. There is a deep sense of family and traditional values.

As for the underbelly of Delhi, well there are the ‘N’ numbers of NGOs, quite equal to the task of clearing and cleaning up. And all else failing, there is the media, ready and waiting to take us all down.

In the final analysis, it is not what the city can do for you, but what you can make of this city.

Dilli tujhe salaam.

1 comment:

Aqseer said...

Arre wah. I think Band Baaja Baarat does a stellar job of pinning down that indescribable something about Delhi that we love. Watch!