7 February 2007

The Long Mushy Delhi Ode, Also The Post She Wrote For Herself, So You're Better Off Skipping The Self-Indulgence

Because it seems so surreal now, like everything's on pause just because I've left it. What do I miss about Delhi, people keep asking me, what do you have there that you don't have here? This post is mainly for me, to recreate a little bit, the universe that I used to live in. I can never go back the same way, and this makes me both sad and strangely, oddly serene. Maybe I needed jolting out of it, maybe I needed to grow, but for now, these are some of the things I miss, only some, because they come to me at odd moments, and I find myself thinking of a particular crossing, or a favourite coffee shop, and then, in the middle of Bombay, I am undone, a little bit, taken back, forgetting where I am or why I came here in the first place.

The sweeping arching trees once planted neatly all over Lutyen's design, now shutting off the sun almost on roads named Curzon (now Kasturba Gandhi Marg) and Barakhamba and Aurangzeb. The jamun-wallahs who sit underneath it, and in the winter, the peanut sellers and the shakarkandhi chaat sellers who clutter the sidewalks, so you have to walk around them and when you do walk around them, and it's cold, then you have to buy a paper packet of warm peanuts, some slightly burnt and have the pleasure of cracking open the shell just right with your front four teeth, and because you don't want to litter, you put the shells back in the bag and stuff it deep into your coat pocket and then you only discover it next winter, or when you're mothballing clothes for the summer and you're taken back to that day, that hour, that walk in winter sunshine. Perhaps you were with your friend, and she was telling you a funny story, or with your lover and you were walking to the nearest auto or to where your car was parked or perhaps you were alone and just walking, because it seemed too beautiful a day to drive. Or maybe this was summer time, and sticky and sweat soaked, you were driving down the same roundabouts, concentrating fiercely, because if you let go of your concentration for one moment, you'd take the wrong identical road and wind up somewhere else entirely. The summer heat would radiate off the grass and the roads and you couldn't put on the air conditioning in your car because you had very little fuel left in it. And you were going to the Mexican ambassador's house for a story and as you drove your car up, you felt very grubby and alone, but as soon as you entered you found a good friend, and it was all okay, because the two of you would scoff maragaritas and exchange industry gossip.

The screaming chaos that is some bits of South Delhi, trying to battle your way to GK-I M-Block Market on a Sunday, because you have to go to Mocha or Inc 5 or buy lingerie at Kunchal's. Being seventeen and on Tuesdays and Thursdays taking jazz dancing classes from Ashley Lobo's centre at Bluebells School, right across the road from what would be your college, and then making your way to the same market with two friends in your workout shorts and t-shirt, and eating a salad burger at McDonald's (Rs 21) and then one of you buying Blue Bunny Cookie Dough ice cream and sharing the waffle cone, even when the ice cream ran down your palms and they stuck stickily to the auto seats. Eating chuski at Prince Paan, when you ran out of shopping energy, getting your nose and later, your bellybutton pierced at Silofer, always packed with young, teenage girls. Getting knock off jeans at the annual jeans sale, which always looked better than the Levi's and fit better too, only they ripped after two seasons, all across your bottom. The memories associated with Defence Colony, learning how to drive on the scary roads, that always had cars rushing out at great speed and without warning from one of the bylanes, naming the parks that you sat in with your friends, drinking surreptitiously, vanilla vodka in 200 ml Coke bottles, walking through Defence Colony market and always, always, always meeting people you knew. Making your way to Sarojini Nagar, armed with a thousand rupees and a hundred different ways to spend it. Using all your textbook and street cred Hindi to bargain down shopkeepers, so you walked away with five skirts for four hundred. Stopping to eat aloo chaat (now, sadly, destroyed in the bomb blasts of the year before last) and finally, mouth bursting with spices, arms laden with cheap plastic packets, going home and modeling all your clothes in front of the mirror. Zipping down newly made flyovers and knowing where to eat at three in the morning, wet and tired after a pool party, when the paratha wallah at AIIMS (also gone now) would come up to your car with choices of potato or egg or paneer and you would always pick the egg one and the steel plate would burn your knees. Five star hotels, that later, thanks to your job, became places you were so familiar with, people would greet you as you walked in, and you always felt like a star when way after midnight you were able to get friends into Aqua or Agni, because the PR knew you. The Lodi, which became so nice, only in your last year in the city, and which was one of your favourite places ever, because of the mist fans, the ambient music and the mattresses and cheap alcohol everywhere. The Habitat Centre which was your favourite place to interview people—at the American Diner—because they let you sit for hours over a cup of coffee and several cigarettes and because it lent itself so well to being photographed.

The PVR Saket complex. The fancy cheeses at Modern Bazaar in Vasant Kunj. Lodhi Gardens. Janpath. Pahargunj. The Mezz. Olive, next to the Qutab Minar. The Nizamuddin bridge, uncrowded. The Noida tollbridge, always. Turquoise Cottage, forever in my heart. And more than all that—the memories that you seem to trip over with each turn you take. Do you remember when you went on your first date in Khan Market? Or went for your orthodontist appointments in Def Col, and stopped off for a hot dog at Kent's? Or saw your first flasher at a Palika Bazaar subway?

Bombay is lovely, but Delhi was home.

(On an entirely different note, I've been asked to contribute to the Kala Ghoda festival blog, so that's where I'll be all this week.)

38 comments:

  1. Hey, I've looked through your blog a couple of times before..and I think I can safely say..you're right..this is one post that you've actually written for yourself..and i think its the best of the lot. The others you've written for your audience..its almost like you almost owe it to them to make it dramatic/ubercool!
    But, honestly, coming from a Delhiite (I so know what you meaning by "tripping over memories") this is by far one of the best odes to the city lately.

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  2. Bombay is lovely, but Delhi was home

    Replace Bombay with Melbourne, and it still remains true. I long to be home.

    Song recommendation: After Laughter (come tears) from the Lucky Number Slevin soundtrack.

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  3. hey there...have been reading your posts for a while now...never commented...but this one made me. Being from Delhi myself and having moved to Bombay 6 months back, this post brought back a lot of memories I thought I had left far behind.

    Bombay is lovely, but Delhi was home.
    That clinched it for me :))Thankyou for writing this post. Not only did you induldge yourself, you induldged all Delhiites - past and present.

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  4. That was truly lovely. It really made me feel all mushy about my college days in Delhi - even though many of the things you mentioned were not there 'in my time' (now there's a phrase I never thought I'd use just yet!)

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  5. This post so makes me want to go back to Delhi. Maybe I will.. atleast for a holiday. Thanks.

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  6. This post so makes me want to go back..thanks..

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  7. you made my eyes wet.I love Dellhhiii.

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  8. ah! and she doesn't say TC even once. Thankyougod for your small mercies.

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  9. wow, u r back to being beautiful! patience does pay I suppose .. :)

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  10. Hey, eM, why are you doing this --- it is so frustrating to know that you have to "approve" things, like Priya Ranjan Das Munshi. Never really expected YOU to play censor. For Chrissakes !!?? You'll probably edit/delete this too --- and never reply to me. You know what it feels like to type in these alphabets at the end ? "Hey man, lower your pants --- are you dickful or dickless ? Please don't do this to your loyal friends and fans ... Please. I'm sure you have your reasons --- but that's the problem with censorship, you end up tarring everyone with the same brush. And this for someone who loves your blog --- helped me through really bleak times. I'm surprised no one else is raising objections ... are we all sheep then ? You probably won't publish this --- but I like your stuff so much, I just had to let you know. No hard feelings ...

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  11. You have all the memories that I wish I had --- actually have, but you express them so much better. Delhi loves you --- maybe we'll get you back.

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  12. hi little Em, its me. your best post yet i think. i agree with some of the other comments, its lovely coz its from the heart and not written with the intention to shock or titillate. really nice.

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  13. stop, stop! now youre makin me homesick too!

    and here was startin to get used to being out!

    Gos se! Juh jen sh guh kwai luh duh jean jan... Jen dao mei!

    ok, now that thats outta my system, nice post - really caught the best of delhi in many ways.

    cheers..

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  14. Do not listen to 'Swades - Yeh jo des hai mera'

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  15. I miss Delhi, havent' been there in over 8 years..thank you for this post senora

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  16. Do i know you?? If i dont, i WISH i did !!!
    I was having a regular day, and then I read your post .... now im all nostalgic ;-) Thankfully im goin back to delhi for a visit soon
    btw, turquoise cottage rocks!!!!

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  17. you are right...Delhi is home...

    thanks for bringing a lot of memories flooding back... :)

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  18. damnit am i the only one not getting mushy-eyed about this?

    anyway, eM, as always- a beautifully worded passage babe. EVERY one of those 'things'/activities i've indulged in and truly enjoyed...(even sarojini with different significant others and in earlier years- my mother:)).

    im sorry to be a jerk in a time of your gorgeous reminiscing, but home is where the heart is. i hope you'll find a love like this for bombay too.

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  19. oh gosh.. i must disagree... you wrote this post for me... i still live here ... and Delhi still does it for me.. for all those very reasons you mentioned...

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  20. i have seen your blog a couple of times..and everytime you make me wish to take the next flight back to delhi..beautifully written.

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  21. Hey, that was a real nostalgic post. I checked your blog after the longest time. It's nice to be back:0)

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  22. Who the fsk is Meenakshi?

    But yes, Delhi is beautiful. *sigh*

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  23. these delhites. why do you ever come to out city??

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  24. Hey there the-girl-who-uses-tiny-fonts, your new template rocks!
    Life's too short to be homesick, go out and have fun!

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  25. oh dilli o dilli how i love you!?!
    an i coming home!! wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

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  26. I like reading posts on Delhi.
    Loved this one. Thanks, and all the best in...mumbai....

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  27. people keep pulling delhi down for some reason or the other,they along with the politicians making the master plan should read your peice on how delhi should be kept

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  28. hey, you got me right here (pointing my heart)! Delhi winter days..... I dot think anything will ever replace them for me.

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  29. "Five star hotels, that later, thanks to your job, became places you were so familiar with, people would greet you as you walked in, and you always felt like a star when way after midnight you were able to get friends into Aqua or Agni, because the PR knew you"

    "....the shell just right with your front four teeth, and because you don't want to litter, you put the shells back in the bag and stuff it deep into your coat pocket and then you only discover it next winter, or when you're mothballing clothes for the summer and you're taken back to that day, that hour, that walk in winter sunshine..."

    ugh. what a badly-written set of farces.

    Are you so cloyingly constructed in real life too?

    The entire post sounds like a boring script with the requisite token peanut/jamun/chaat sellers that interrupt to provide a nice background to your description of a classically insulated delhi elite life.

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  30. Beautifully written....feelks like takin the next flight back home...

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  31. Hi, this is the first time that I responding to your blog......really liked it......somewhere it touched me like it has done to everybody staying outside their very own Delhi......
    "Zipping down newly made flyovers and knowing where to eat at three in the morning".......I have been working in Bangalore for past two years and I have an oppurtunity to go to delhi once in 7 or 8 months.....The traffic jams and no food wen u work late reminds u of Delhi......u have many places to hang out, have late nite food......something which I miss d most here.....It's not dat I dnt like B'lor but then Delhi is where my heart is......
    "The PVR Saket complex..........And more than all that—the memories that you seem to trip over with each turn you take".....The Priya Complex, the beauty of Connaught Place......all those hangout places......I miss them.....as Bangalore does not have much of these type of places opening up late......It jst dies after 9 in the night.......Delhi is always alive....I miss it.....Delhi Rocks....!!!

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  32. I went to Bombay to start the horrible corporate life after college - lasted 1 month and returned to Delhi - Now I'm in Delhi living the life you're missing *Grin*
    If you love it so much and Bombay doesn't live up to that charm of Delhi then why not return - I fail to understand - am sure you have a million reasons though.
    *It's just that I HATE Bombay*

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  33. trying to catch up with your '07 posts.
    this was lovely.
    so lovely that i felt almost homesick for Dlehi...
    and i'm from karachi, pakistan.lol!

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  34. had been reading ur blog for quite some time but came across this one now... and I must say.. this once touched my heart for am stuck in Hyderabad...and my longing for Delhi is beyond ne words...

    seriously..

    Hyderabad is Decent...but Delhi was home...


    Love ya for this post...thanx..!!

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