“Tu toh ekdum Dilli waali ho gayi” (You have turned into a Delhi girl now).
I can’t count the number of times I have been bombarded with this sentence. For the longest time, I chuckled through it because it didn’t matter and the context in which it did matter, ‘Dilli waali’ seemed like a compliment for a girl who had moved from a developing town to the capital city. It was only when I started noticing the undertones attached to the term ‘Dilli waali’ or the misogynistic context that it was used in, I felt an aversion within to such an identification.
I noticed how every time I used ‘fuck’ in a sentence or decided to wear my clothes an inch shorter or brought a strong counter-argument in a running debate – I was shut down by saying “Arey tu toh Dilli waali hogayi hai”. They tried to coerce me into thinking how I might be distancing myself from my ‘roots’. Every time I took a stand for my roommate partying late at night or spent hours explaining to my mom about the queer community, or how drinking and smoking aren’t parameters to judge someone’s character, I noticed this subtle resistance on their end against the supposed ‘Delhi influence’ in my behaviour.
I have been brought up in a family where conformity was shoved down our throats as a ‘safety measure’ so that we could live happily in a society that rejects anything that goes against its norms. And I choose not to blame it on my family completely, simply because they don’t see many societal norms as redundant constructions that might bar freedom, they see them as guarding ways that might protect me from the ‘demons’ of the real world.
The core issue here, however, is the degree to which we are conditioned into believing that ‘demons’ can often arise from what society believes to be ‘spaces of bad influence’ (like a metro city or privileged institutions). And how the ‘demon’ would attack might depend on me breaking a ‘societal code of conduct’.
Understand this – my choice to live life the way I do isn’t limited to a specific city. Sure I might now be fairly different from my previous self, but that’s because I am being exposed to a broader set of perspectives that I can choose from. So every time, I challenge a set of conditions my previous self was being subject to I am not becoming more of a ‘Dilli waali’ (not that there’s anything wrong with it) or less of my previous self, I am just figuring out spaces that would help me educate myself and possibly others into being better versions of ourselves. My identity doesn’t belong to one place, and if it had to, it would belong to the infinity of the universe.