By Saanya Gulati:
The following statement comes as a shock to many: I am from ‘Bombay and Delhi!’ Anyone who is well versed with the eternal rivalry between India’s two largest metropolises knows that being a ‘Bombay-Delhi Girl’ is simply absurd. A paradox, if you will.
As a fellow blogger aptly puts it: ‘if anything comes second to an India-Pakistan debate at a dinner table, it would be a Bombay-Delhi one.’ When I tell someone in Bombay I am from Delhi or vice versa, the next question is inevitable: ‘which one do you prefer?’. The truth is that I not only lack a loyalty, but I also do not see any fundamental difference between the two.
Before Bombay-ites (because let’s be honest, we are not from ‘Mumbai’) and Delhi-ites start to get defensive, I do not believe there are no differences between the two cities, just that they are more nominal than we make them out to be. In fact, I can find as many reasons to dislike both cities as I can to love them.
In the heart of South Bombay and South Delhi, I have witnessed the snobbery and social pretenses that both cities’ elitist circles indulge in. The imaginary boundaries that we isolate ourselves in are prevalent in either city — Bombay ceases to exist beyond the Worli-Bandra sea link, and East Delhi is of course excluded in the mental map of many dilliwallas. Both cities are heavily congested, try finding a quiet moment on the Bombay local or the Delhi metro. Both cities suffer from immense air pollution – Delhi may win the gold medal, but Bombay is not too far behind. There are unbearable traffic jams in both cities. Delhi’s roads may be wider, but there is no dearth of vehicles – cars, trucks, and let’s not forget the occasional cow. Also, contrary to what Bombay-ites may believe, road rage is not restricted to Delhi’s drivers!
When it comes to the positives, both cities have their own natural beauty. Anyone who has soaked the winter sun in Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens, or walked along Marine Drive in the monsoons can attest to this. Both cities also have a rich cultural heritage, from the old world charm of Bombay’s grand buildings around Kala Ghoda, to Delhi’s Chandni Chowk and numerous tombs; from the abundant museums and art galleries to the heritage walks that you can take in Hauz Khas or Churchgate, both places are a travelers paradise. For those who prefer the nighttime adventures, Haus Khas Village is the buzzword for Delhi’s yuppies, as is Bandra for Bombay’s.
I often find that stereotypes about Bombay or Delhi are interchangeable. As a woman, I have felt as unsafe in Bombay, met Bombay-ites who converse in Hindi, (albeit more crass!) spent ages hunting for a taxi in Bombay, and even been turned down after informing them of my destination. I have come across people who are as friendly and hospitable, as they are close-minded and cold-hearted in both cities. Of course they all share one thing in common – An unflinching loyalty to their own city.
Today, I refrain from participating in Bombay-Delhi debates, because having spent seven years in each city has taught that me that it is possible to love one city without hating the other. So, while Bombay and Delhi’s inhabitants remain at loggerheads, I enjoy the best of both worlds, true to my identity of a ‘Bombay-Delhi Girl.’