Dilli

Welcome 2019! We are back after recharging our batteries in motherland. It was a fantastic trip. A little bit too short. But we made the most of it and met with as many of our family and friends as we could. Not to forget, we also ate as much as we could 😛 [I can totally do a water fast for next whole week, and still survive.]

A refreshing trip to India has become a favorite New Year ritual for us. May we keep it up.

On this trip I attended a wedding, explored the narrow yet spirited alleys of Chandni chowk, enjoyed a circus… ok it was a Cirque de Soleil show, took a ride on the Delhi metro to visit Delhi Haat, visited Bangla Sahib Gurudwara on the first day of the year (with 10 lakh other people), met up with friends, relatives, aging grand parents and even squeezed in a day of work at the Google GGN office. I also took two solo Uber rides and an E-rickshaw.

That’s a truck load of adventure in the mere 12 days we were at home. Not to forget the endless chai, gajar halwa, gur ki chikki, and revri and gajjak, and kaju katli, along with the delicious mutton curries, kadhi chawal, rajma chawal, fish fry, pakodas, chaat, and the must-do chole bhature at Bikanerwala. We even enjoyed some mouth watering Dabeli, Vada Pao and Missal Pav at Dellhi Haat this time. It was a gluttonous risk. But our immune systems fared well. In terms of new restaurants we really enjoyed Burma Burma and Not Just Paranthas at Cyberhub. And the icing on the cake was a trip to Haveli Dharampura in old Delhi where the Mughlai delicacies blew my mind.

Delhi also calls for a lot of random shopping for things I can totally live without, but rather not. Shopping at Fabindia and Chumbak 😛 are must-do’s. I also went on a hunt for martabaans – clay canisters used to store Indian pickles. Nope I don’t intend to make mango pickles. I just wanted the martbaan, coz they look cute on the kitchen counter. I am yet to find purpose for them. I also did some trinket shopping in Delhi Haat.

Overall, we were more adventurous in Delhi this year and packed our itinerary pretty tight. I would have loved to spend more wela days at home, but we did get some good evening time with the family and most of all, Tara really really enjoyed spending time with her grand parents and cousin sisters. I am so glad she enjoyed Delhi in it’s raw form this winter – with crowds, e-rickshaws and dust. I wish the pollution was not as bad as it was. But these experiences will etch in her memory, and hopefully harbor in her heart love for a city that I love so much.

A few things that struck me again and again during my travels –

  • Delhi is a city of bold contrasts – poor infrastructure, yet Uber. Broken, unkempt buildings with an elevator. A man with a mobile phones herding cows on the street. The contrast hits you the moment you step outside the house. It is in your face. And so hard to ignore. How then, do people reconcile these two worlds? I’d find it very disturbing. Almost depressing. I asked a few of my friends about this – and they all tell me they look the other way, and live in a bubble. I wonder if I could too, if I was there.
  • Every evening, right around 5pm, a demon takes over the city and settles in for the night. The lights appear dim, and the city loses its luster to the smoke. It’s like being in a dream. I don’t know which side of it is real. Is the glitter of the day a facade or is the smoggy night an alternate reality? Again, a contrast I found hard to reconcile. And it depressed me to see the blue sky turn grey.
  • I am still capable of finding my way around Delhi. Thanks to Uber. No, this is not my over confidence. I felt very independent in Delhi, after almost 15 years. And even though I have a lot of ethical conflict with Uber as an organization, I am thankful to the concept for making me feel alive in Delhi, again.

Delhi is part of my identity. I learnt a lot from this city and I continue to learn from it. It is not perfect, but it has place for all. It is not just, but there is opportunity. It is dirty, and smoggy, and crowded. But it is authentic.

There is no place like Delhi in the world that I have seen thus far. But every time I watch it from up close I feel a tad bit disappointed. A city that continues to offer so much opportunity to people from all over India, and the world, continues to be a lost opportunity in itself. We are unable to do justice to the history of this city and it’s heritage is being lost to clouds of dust and smoke.

Jaan Nisar Akhtar


dillī kahāñ gaiiñ tere kūchoñ kī raunaqeñ
galiyoñ se sar jhukā ke guzarne lagā huuñ maiñ

As for me, I will continue to look below the covers, and wait for the clouds to clear, and always fondly admire the wonder that is Delhi.

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