Beloved lauki blossoms,
I feel like the subject of my newsletter today, i.e., why I am over Delhi, is going to piss some people off, including me from ten years ago, so let me preemptively say that this is really about me and my relationship with the city I call home, nothing personal, no shade on your choices. As I get older, I find myself wanting to exist more and more in a world where what I say is really only about me and not anyone else, and I think social media, especially Twitter, has ruined this. Time was you could have your own opinion and other people could have theirs, and you’d roll your eyes at them if you disagreed but this active hate for anyone who is not in your own particular Venn diagram, that’s just ten years old.
Why would it make me-from-ten-years-ago angry though? I decided to ask.
Present Day Me (PDM): Hi, 29-year-old Meenakshi, thanks for being on my podcast!
Past Me (PM): Er, what’s a podcast?
PDM: Okay, no, podcasts were actually a thing way back in 2004, so you should know this. Nice try though, trying to make me feel old.
PM: Hah, you are old though. You had how many drinks last night?
PDM: *mumbles* Three.
PM: Three! And you still have a hangover? I had like eight and I am fine.
PDM: Look. This is not supposed to be a conversation about how amazing life was at twenty nine.
PM: Hey, my life is pretty great. I have a decent job, a nice flat, a beloved cat and I just started dating someone new and amazing.
PDM: The good news is you’re still with that amazing man! Yay!
PM: Wait… what about the rest of it?
PDM: Amazing man! Yay!
PM: My cat is dead, isn’t he.
PDM: He was sick for a very long time. Oh, but you have new cats. They’re very nice.
PM: Are they though
PDM: They’re great cats.
PM: I’m really depressed now and I don’t want to talk any more.
PDM: Wait! I wanted to ask you something specific. Why do you love Delhi?
PM: Why do I love Delhi? I mean… it’s home isn’t it?
PDM: That’s what I’ve been saying for ten years now, and I want us to go a little deeper into it. What makes it home?
PM: Well, we grew up here.
PDM: And that means we have to stay?
PM: I guess not, but it’s been nice to feel rooted, like we have a connection to someplace.
PDM: We felt rooted in Bombay as well, didn’t we, before we left?
PM: Yeah, but Bombay never belonged to us in the way Delhi does.
PDM: Does Delhi belong to us? Oh, I know, it’s familiar, we know the roads, the ins and outs of traffic, but we spent our whole childhood pretending to be North Indian so we’d fit in more. We hid away our food because some kids would mock us saying “Ai yi yo, idli sambhar.” We referred to our grandparents as our “Naana and Naani.” We dropped Telugu completely from our list of languages and didn’t even bother to start Malayalam. And since our Hindi was always average at best compared to everyone else, we dropped that too, and now we only speak one language. One language! Delhi did this to us.
PM: We did this to us. How long are you going to go on blaming the city?
PDM: Breathing troubles much?
PM: Uh, escaping from your troubles much?
PDM: Look, they’re constructing a house next door to us, and every morning, no matter how late I go to bed, I wake up to that gnnnnNARRRRGNNNNN of a drill at 8 am. It’s a constant soundtrack. This colony we moved into…
PM: We moved?
PDM: Yeah, to a small green colony that used to be all single story houses and birdsong in the evening.
PM: I’ve never even heard of it.
PDM: And you won’t for three years, but my point is there’s no escaping! Someone described our neighbourhood as “one of the last secret green places in South Delhi” and the secret’s out.
PM: People have to live somewhere.
PDM: Well, the colony infrastructure can’t take so many people.
PM: Wow. Where are the socialist ideals you love to toss around at parties? It’s okay for everyone to sacrifice but not at the expense of your discomfort?
PDM: *sputters* It would be okay if these high rises were going to, like, social housing or something but it’s just the same rich Delhi douchebags--
PM: Like you.
PDM: Worse! At least I don’t have the same sense of entitlement.
PM: Or you’re just still afraid of confrontation. Listen, I hear you. But tell me you’d be like 100 per cent thrilled by your “quiet green colony” or whatever becoming a social housing project.
PDM: You know in Berlin, social housing is everywhere.
PM: Oh yeah? In your new neighbourhood?
PDM: There’s a very famous squat just down the road.
PM: And there you go, about to gentrify the neighbourhood.
PDM: Look, I know you’re not that interested in talking about how fucked up capitalism is yet, so why even pretend. Let’s get back to why we say we love Delhi.
PM: The food? The people? Our lovely big flat for low low rents? The sense of--
PDM: Oh do not say “the sense of history.”
PM: What? It’s true!
PDM: Come on, you’re clinging on to something you thought about when we were nineteen and thought we were so deep.
Nineteen-year-old me: HEY! I AM SO DEEP.
PDM & PM: GO AWAY!
PDM: Look, I’ll give you the food. We miss it in Berlin. We’ve learned to cook, but it’s not the same. But we’ve never been massive foodies, so while we like good food, obviously, it doesn’t make our decisions for us.
PM: Bombay had terrible food.
PDM: It did! They couldn’t even do a decent penne arrabiata let alone a kebab roll.
PM: Kari patta in everything, even the rajma.
(Everyone from Bombay sends me angry emails/unsubscribes en masse.)
PDM: See, and we still loved Bombay.
PM: People though. You can’t replace them.
PDM: No, I can’t. But a weird thing has happened these last ten years. People began to make families, to shrink into smaller units, to move away. Our life has been scattered. We’re moving with our person, and our cats. We’ll miss everyone, especially our parents and our closest dearest friends, but we can’t keep treading water while everyone else swims laps.
PM: *mutters* Our new replacement cats.
PDM: And we haven’t seen a lot of people over the last year and a half anyway.
PM: Why, what happened in the last year and a half?
PDM: Oh boy.
I hope you enjoyed that. As you can see, I have absolutely no good reason for being over Delhi, except that I am. I mean, as a couple who have chosen to not have children, it’s important that we shake things up every now and then, just so we’re not the same people, sitting in the same house, living the same life, over and over again. Where is the challenge? Where is the excitement? While for some people, the idea of a settled life is comforting and the dream, for us, it feels stifling.
Then too there’s the fact that I seem to be living my life slower than other people. My friends went, did their years (or five) abroad, returned, got married, are living good lives. Mine is in reverse, giving up the good life in exchange for newer pastures. Choosing discomfort and excitement over comfort and ordinariness.
Meanwhile I am having a whale of a time in Delhi (here for the next three or four weeks). I’ve gotten a lot of clothes made at my brilliant local tailor, updated my glasses prescription and met friends and hung with my mum, and eaten a lot, and spent time alone in my flat, the last time I’ll be doing that here. (K stayed back in Germany but is arriving tonight.) (I hate to say “last,” so I’ll say “for the forseeable future.”) I got a haircut, and finally, for the first time in my adult life, got bangs, which I’ve always wanted but was told my “face was too small for.” I hired a temporary maid, which is a great and incredible luxury, except I’m finding I prefer to be a lazy housewife (housespouse?) and do everything myself slowly rather than give someone instructions. The instruction-giving seems to sap more of my energy than actually doing a thing, so weird. I guess it’s lucky I’m moving to Berlin where there will be no maid and only us and our pigsty.
Oh, I almost forgot! My reunification with my cats was just as loving (on my side) and anticlimatic (on theirs) as you’d expect. Olga is delighted, Squishy is like “Olga happy so Squishy also happy” and Bruno has been avoiding me except when there’s food involved so all is status quo. I have a feeling they’re going to sulk mightily when they are relocated but I also know (okay, I think. I hope?) they love us enough that our presence will make up for this small upheaval in their lives.
If you liked this newsletter (or any of my newsletters!) please buy me a coffee! Tips are great and encouraging that I am doing something right here.
Links I Liked (A bit thin on the ground this edition, apologies)
I wrote a column about Sarojini Naidu’s tiger claw necklace.
How Dubai became the social influencer capital.
What Goop really sells women.
Crafting the world’s best kitchen knife.
That’s all I got! Have a great week!
Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.
Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of seven books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
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