The Delhi Diary

Posted on February 22, 2012 in Travel

By Dhara P Shah:

It was definitely not love at first sight for me. I hated the crudeness, the crassness and the cacophony of it all. It was like ‘living’ a nightmare with Technicolor and surround sound. Usurped from the quiet confines of the beach-lined city of Chennai, here I was- a stranger amidst more than a million people, not knowing them and fearing not being known. Delhi was so not the city I had envisioned it to be.

The Delhi that I experienced firsthand brought to mind scary headlines- of rape, of gore, of random killings and violence. It brought to mind immense noise. This was not a subtle city by any means! It was a world where everyday conversation was replaced by cussing, where sentences were interspersed with never-heard-of swear words (and in stinging combinations), where the F-word was used more as an adjective than a verb and where you couldn’t find solitude even if it existed anywhere. It was not Dalrymple’s ‘city of djinns’- more like a city of greed, gluttony, of the sarkar and its sloth.

Delhi, before my somewhat unfortunate arrival there, was in my mind a place about power- about possessing it, wielding it and retaining it. It was a city that decided the fate of a billion people, a metropolis that was the crown of Indian democracy, a conserve of the country’s history and a conurbation of its intellectual elite. It wasn’t like the ‘calony’ of debauchery, pretence and its liaison with pompousness that I was seeing. It was a place that was loud, overbearing and made me question my sanity. To make matters worse, I was to be at JNU- a self- sufficient mini Republic where the world was a vivid red; Marx almost a deity and Lenin & the revolutionaries – demigods.

When people told me that Delhi, the city, would make me forget Bombay, I was amused- and not in a good way. I would merely shake my head at them, roll my eyes and pity them for their ignorance about Mumbai – a city that was for me pulsating with life, vibrant and simply stimulating. I was almost proven right. Co-hostellers and classmates shared similar horror stories; stories that were filled with disgust at Delhi and displayed an antipathy towards it. Half a year went by – full of cribbing and complaining over what the city lacked and what it should have had. Nitpicking continued even in terms of its geography and physical location and I whined and grumbled all the while that I was there. I almost wept in joy when it was time for winter break. Never had homecoming been so looked forward to, so anticipated or so longed for. I smiled, for real, for the first time in the 6 months that I had been in Delhi- and that was because I was getting away from it and heading home.

But what started off as a horror story did have a happily ever after.…And I will be back with the insights of that.