From Delights to Dilemmas: Days in Delhi

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1) Savoring the Skies

The skies of Delhi have an imperceptible way of surprising and disappointing you at the same time. Because after a particularly long day of monsoon having reigned over the skies, you would be least expecting a scathing sunshine to simmer down your cheery mood, and that’s if the puddles run over by cars don’t. And then, right in the midst of February when you would be dreading the transition from goose bumps to a light sheen of sweat over your skin, you’d be rewarded by no signs of the sun’s sorry face.

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2) The Means of Traversing

Metros have finally grown on me. Ever since the day I dreaded stepping inside the doors that seemed to close without any prior warning, felt like the crowd inside was closing up on me, held onto the pillars and panels for dear life lest I  be jerked into an embarrassing fall to the day when the inertia beneath my feet holds me still, the risk of getting inside just before the doors close gives me thrills and the feeling of cold emptiness on seeing strange faces everywhere is replaced by the complacent ability to get lost in my own world within a compromised space – I have come a long way, and I’m glad.

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The whistling past of metros as you wait for a friend flutters beneath your skin; as the wind plays with your pants around your ankles, the clock blaring digits in pixels of bright red and people hurrying with earphones declaring their unwillingness to interact- metro stations feel like the tinge of freedom on your fingertips as you navigate your ways towards yellow, violet and blue lines on stairs that move and some that don’t with the bittersweet feeling of being surrounded by people who are strangers but only in faces and the way they acquire spaces.

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3) The Meandering Matters of the Market

Markets in Delhi are one of those peculiar places that refuse to be contained by dimensions; whether it be the ones that are surrounded by cubicles of glasses reflecting the yellow fancy lights of a mall or the ones where the stalls have encroached on the streets so that you would have to walk in compromised spaces displaying the fanciest replicas of branded clothes. Then there are the ones where the shine of oxidized silver pulls at the strings of your aesthetic soul, the jingles of little bells and reflections of small glasses promising to go with every traditional wear. And just when you thought that by barely skimming through the streets of Chandni Chowk you have had a taste of the real Delhi; you land in Majnu ka Tilla – a place that takes your breath away with its culture, tradition and a disciplined behavior of the inhabitants. The little Tibetan Colony would make you regret spending money on visiting Dharamshala or McLeod Ganj with the prominence of culture coming in the form of streets that diverge and distribute into cleaner, quieter and peaceful spaces.

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And that’s not all. Similar but broader lanes of Khan Market feel of a totally different time with buildings of colonial designs, looming and tall in their sculpted and whitewashed glory of a million cafes with their expensive menus. Even the IPhone cases hung against the walls feel posh and unaffordable, but you let yourself splurge for the sake of guilty pleasures and treating yourself in the form of fancy pizza places and fancier confectionaries. Finally, as the streets with their turns and stone clad roads carry you forward, you realize window shopping never felt better.

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4) Cut to the Cafes

The cafes in Delhi are everything but isolated, they pop up almost unwittingly in all the possible places that people frequent. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find one Big Chill or CCD hiding sneakily behind inconspicuous streets. Nevertheless, there are some standing out amidst the monotony of those or some, that are as promising from the inside as they seem from the outside. The décor of these places is one of the main attractions for me, for they work on bringing out a comfortable, aesthetic as well as cozy feel that makes people want to come again. Whether it is the murals on the walls, or the fancy chandelier with a twist of casualty of dried flowers or empty wine bottles glimmering with fairy lights or even books kept on the shelves to give a book lover’s heart some respite- all of it makes a person’s experience 10 times better.

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Sometimes it feels like Delhi tries to compensate for its unpleasant outdoors by trying to capture all the beauty within four walls, as can be seen in the context of these cafes making the best use of flowers, trees and terraces that let in natural light. But sometimes the authenticity is lost in the chase of aesthetics as one gets bored of the artificiality of it all. Nevertheless, what is extremely essential is also to identify places where you can find cheap as well as savory food, the décor and the interior aside, because you cannot visit the Big Yellow Door every time you crave a burger. (Just some of the perks of studying in South Campus.)

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5) Matter of the Monuments

But of course, how can we forget the time when all of this didn’t exist and when Dilli had its original pride in all the minars, mosques, tombs and forts that formed the very core of the city. Ranging from Jama Masjid and Humayun’s Tomb to Lodhi Gardens, the sandstones and marbles inscribed with verses , the feeling of rough stone under your feet immediately satiated by the cool of perfectly manicured gardens and the passageways and entryways echoing with the noise of school kids on a field trip contrasted by the accented voices of the foreigners- Delhi levels its history and contemporariness on scales made of ages of sacrifice as it limits and expands for more and more people.

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The crowds here are an interesting mixture of foreigners, tour guides, the locals and then the daily wage workers selling food items at prices double than the actual rate. Not to forget the (young) couples, lost in their personal spaces created behind the ancient walls scratched with arrowed hearts and initials of their names. But, these monuments do provide Delhi a dimension with the way they hold their own space, harboring isolation and indulgence, as well as commercial benefits all within their ancient structures. They lend to Delhi an ancient feel, as if it has just sat down to weave a tale that our history textbooks missed out upon.

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6) Gamble of Goodbyes

I have come a long way when it comes to carefully introducing the idea of Delhi to my limited notions of home. Nevertheless, each time I leave town for a short break I feel unhinged of responsibilities tethered to me, each time I feel the burden shift a bit from my shoulders as the bus covers 162 kms of distance and then to get comfortable again as soon as it’s time to come back. For that time always arrives a bit too soon for my liking.

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The distance between leaving and coming back or coming back and leaving could be made into a circle. Each part of it is tinged unequally with satisfaction and disappointment. Yet, nothing is more prominent than the strength that surges up as I leave behind all that I have been familiar with, with a debatably straight face in order to go back to whatever I have been trying to familiarize myself with. I suppose the ability of being able to limit emotions too personal for people to yourself is relieving in all its strength.

Written and Photographed by Ananya Vasishtha

Feature Image by Ananya Vasishtha

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