For the first time in my life, I experienced my spectacles becoming goggles. I had to credit Delhi’s smog for this gift. The feeling of being promoted from a small town to a metropolis evaporated as soon as the Sabzi Mandi station helped the odours of the national capital to assault my nose. All the icky vegetables and family quarrels, which threatened to mar my idyllic images of Chandigarh, trumped (shouldn’t use that word nowadays, who knows US intelligence may zero in on me as a wannabe immigrant) the alien reproductions of Rajmah-Rice.
My history books referred to the jewels of the Khilji, Lodi, Mughal and Gandhi dynasties (they refuse to let go of their stake in 7 RCR), that had converted the innocuous and dusty city into a marvel. They mentioned stories carved in stone, songs thrumming in inlay work, art peeping from every corner (not literally, obviously), and culture seeped into the earth of the city of djinns. As compared to the newness of Chandigarh’s well-planned, grid-like, organised structure with little history to boast about, Delhi was a treasure trove.
I must be truthful here- my first impression of Delhi wasn’t so stunning. I distinctly remember turning my nose away from the piles of rotting garbage, staring in horrid fascination at a shopping centre painted entirely in white and paan stains, and furiously hoping that I’d see an actual tree, or even an (impossible) sparrow somewhere. Many visitors and travellers who have documented the city and struck gold in writing about its glorious past say that the city grew on them. Its markets awed them. Its people won their hearts. Its divinely ordained rulers benignly appointed them as advisors or scribes.
My experience was a little different.
The only growth I witnessed was that of eve-teasing and traffic in the evenings. The people were unusually helpful in terms of pushing me out of the metro when my station arrived. And the rulers worried tremendously about what the Delhi Police Chief was saying, which new crime an AAP MLA had committed, which house they wanted after the next election in Lutyens’ Delhi, and how many barricades would have to be placed in front of the US consulate. They should consider surrounding it with a wall now, paid for by our cashless economy. The amazing markets, as is evident from a sudden spurt in my book collection (only 40 Rupees for Half Girlfriend Madamji-no I didn’t buy it) though, didn’t disappoint.
But for every shrill whistle I heard, I received a pleasant smile. For every rude autowallah, I met one who wanted to use the meter. For every pile of garbage, I got the National Museum and the Bharat Rang Mahotsav. For every rue-ler, I got an activist. For every expression of disdain, I found hope.
And horror of horrors, I seemed to like it.
Despite all these factors, I want to sincerely thank God for giving me the opportunity to venture towards new horizons.
I think I stepped into a muddy pothole.
I take my gratitude back.
by Tript Kaur
Image by Hitashi Arora