Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ten things that define Delhi (9 & 10)...and 11 and 12 and...

So finally, I've come to the last entry in the 'Ten things that define Delhi' series. And of course, I'm in a fix, because when you try to define the essence of a big, ancient city like Delhi, it's hard to stick to 10 specific things.
.
My friend Sanjaya says it quite evocatively: "(Delhi is) many other things for me... Parathewali Gali in Chandni Chowk (a drunk Sadat Hasan Manto on a tanga near where Ghalib might have lived)... The Delhi Zoo in the Old Fort Complex... next to the tomb steps where Humayun died ("He tumbled through life and he tumbled out of it" in the words of Stanley Lane-Poole)... and DU with St. Stephen's College... not easy to list only a few!"

And thus it is for every dilliwalla or dilliwalli. So many impressions, big and small, come together to create a complex, colourful, emotive picture of the city.

For Kirti, who went to B-School with me (beyond all doubt, the leggiest girl on campus), Delhi is about classical concerts at the park between October and March, with glorious monuments as backdrop. I'll go with you next season, Kirti!

Vandita says she likes the unique student culture of North Campus, with its mix of upscale and downmarket colleges. Sandy says for her, Delhi is all about glorious, noisy weddings. Dimple, bless her, says it's the colourful jhumkies and jutties on sale in the shops. Shobna says it's sinful dollops of ghee in winter. For Pooja, with whom I photographed the city, Delhi is all about glorious monuments that spring suddenly round the corner when you're just driving by.

If you really want to understand Delhi, experience it with someone who loves the city. In the last 15 years, I've wandered through Delhi in the company of many wonderful people, on several different occassions...long days spent working, talking, shopping, dining, photographing, finding snippets of history and art and culture...loving the bazaars, hating the Gurgaon traffic...
.
Over the years, the city has slowly revealed more and more of itself. But just when I begin to think I know the city well enough, something new turns up, and the discovery starts afresh. I suspect the journey will never end.
.

13 comments:

Leela Salivati said...

Lived in Jaipur for six years Deepa and visited Delhi at least 3 times a year to vacation with my cousin between the ages 10-16....for me its the 5 and a half hour bus ride from Jaipur ending in Dhaula Kuan and the heart doing a flip flop seeing my aunt waiting there to pick me up that I remember most. The ubiquitous "Malhotra" uncle back slapping me with an "Oye Leelu, tu aa gayi bachchi", he was a regular visitor at my aunts place. Paneer in most of the meals at home, aloo chaat at Aurobindo Place, all other forms of chaat at Evergreen Hauz Khas, Aloo tikki at Bengali market, street shopping in Janpath and feeling like I was queen of the world as I shopped, digging into Nirula cheese burgers (have yuou ever had such great burger cheese) at Connaught place, "semi-precious" stone shopping at Palika bazaar. My teenage spine used to tingle with excitement at how the sky was the limit in India, we had an A/c underground bazaar now ! Karol Bagh for chappals and shoes, Sarojini market for cheap/pretty textiles. Ah! Dilli Haat. Thats ma place now, buy things there that have no business being carried within the limited kilos most airlines allow. Also remember the Asiad of 1984, what a transformation it wrought on an already beautiful city. The Gurvayoorappan temple replica in Mayur Vihar........ Thank you for your series.....and the forum to present my homage to a city that clearly has a lot to do with who I am today....changa ji changa.

Pooja Sharma said...

Hmmm, ok, here's my list: off the top of my head...

architecture, definitely... both of power, and history... and what a variety! The old fort, tughlaqabad and red forts stand as symbols of the power that the city wielded in the past, and the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhawan, India Gate, and numerous other government buildings, of the power that it continues to wield.
Monuments like Humayun's tomb, Qutab Minar, built in different eras and styles.
The small ones that pop up every now and then, in the middle of residential colonies, as you are driving by...
White ambassadors running in cordons, and powerful addresses... 10, Janpath?
Modern monuments, samadhis of our leaders of modern history: Rajghat, Shanti Van, Vijay Ghat, Shakti Sthal...

roads, wide and well built, atleast in Lutyens Delhi, and many of the more modern parts of Delhi.

Greenery and parks, ah how I miss it in Mumbai

Food, great food! From Kareem's and Paranthewali Gali in Chandni Chowk to Pandara Road, and the more upmarket restaurants in CP and South Delhi. And oh, Nirula's, the original fast food joint!
And then the street food! wonderful chaats, nobody can make that like dilliwaalas can... from the raodside chaatwala, to Haldiram's, ita all there

Markets, each with its own distinctive style. CP for it beautiful white colonnaded structure, Janpath and Sarojini Nagar for street shopping, the more recent Dilli Haat for ethnic shopping and food stalls from around the country, Karol Bagh for everything under the sun, Lajpat Nagar, South Extension, Palika Bazar, the underground 'AC' market...

Mandi House for theatre and Siri Fort for the annual IFFI (now moved to Goa, sadly) and OSIAN film festivals and other wonderful performances through the year

Fabindia, the original! And many others ethnic types that have followed suit... Nowhere else will you find the ethnic/ NGO look perfected to such glory. Complete with beautiful silver jewellery

Blue lines, white lines, DTC buses... the killer buses on the roads... all racing with each other... we thought DTC drivers were bad, until the blue lines arrived!
The Delhi Metro- wah! Finally a pleasure to travel in Delhi!! Unthinkable almost. Now waiting for the Metro to reach Mayur Vihar, yay! :)
The horrible horrible auto drivers, who never wanna use their meters, and always want to overcharge. Travelling in Delhi without your own means of transport can be such a nightmare.
The intolerant, unfriendly people on the roads, especially the ones driving... well, I guess the crazy traffic can be held atleast partly responsible for their foul moods...

How many is that? Did I hit 10 yet? whew! :)

Pooja Sharma said...

Hmmm, ok, here's my list: off the top of my head...

architecture, definitely... both of power, and history... and what a variety! The old fort, tughlaqabad and red forts stand as symbols of the power that the city wielded in the past, and the Parliament, Rashtrapati Bhawan, India Gate, and numerous other government buildings, of the power that it continues to wield.
Monuments like Humayun's tomb, Qutab Minar, built in different eras and styles.
The small ones that pop up every now and then, in the middle of residential colonies, as you are driving by...
White ambassadors running in cordons, and powerful addresses... 10, Janpath?
Modern monuments, samadhis of our leaders of modern history: Rajghat, Shanti Van, Vijay Ghat, Shakti Sthal...

roads, wide and well built, atleast in Lutyens Delhi, and many of the more modern parts of Delhi.

Greenery and parks, ah how I miss it in Mumbai

Food, great food! From Kareem's and Paranthewali Gali in Chandni Chowk to Pandara Road, and the more upmarket restaurants in CP and South Delhi. And oh, Nirula's, the original fast food joint!
And then the street food! wonderful chaats, nobody can make that like dilliwaalas can... from the raodside chaatwala, to Haldiram's, ita all there

Markets, each with its own distinctive style. CP for it beautiful white colonnaded structure, Janpath and Sarojini Nagar for street shopping, the more recent Dilli Haat for ethnic shopping and food stalls from around the country, Karol Bagh for everything under the sun, Lajpat Nagar, South Extension, Palika Bazar, the underground 'AC' market...

Mandi House for theatre and Siri Fort for the annual IFFI (now moved to Goa, sadly) and OSIAN film festivals and other wonderful performances through the year

Fabindia, the original! And many others ethnic types that have followed suit... Nowhere else will you find the ethnic/ NGO look perfected to such glory. Complete with beautiful silver jewellery

Blue lines, white lines, DTC buses... the killer buses on the roads... all racing with each other... we thought DTC drivers were bad, until the blue lines arrived!
The Delhi Metro- wah! Finally a pleasure to travel in Delhi!! Unthinkable almost. Now waiting for the Metro to reach Mayur Vihar, yay! :)
The horrible horrible auto drivers, who never wanna use their meters, and always want to overcharge. Travelling in Delhi without your own means of transport can be such a nightmare.
The intolerant, unfriendly people on the roads, especially the ones driving... well, I guess the crazy traffic can be held atleast partly responsible for their foul moods...

How many is that? Did I hit 10 yet? whew! :)

Pooja Sharma said...

and oh, the campuses! DU is fairly reputed in itself, with St Stephen's leading the pack from the North Campus, arch rival Hindu, ultra feministic LSR, and so on... And then there are the legendary IIT Delhi and JNU (It doesn't have an IIM though) and several other nationally and internationally renowned institutions: National School of Drama, the School of Planning and Architecture etc

Also should be included in the transportation point: the rickshaw, also common in many other cities in North India. The cheap (if not entirely easy on the conscience) way to travel short distances...

GS said...

Hi Deepa:
If you are who I think you are then I have found you after hmmm... 20-odd years! I can't mistake your face - we went to school in 1979 and 1980 together (6th and 7th standard to be precise!). I am the Delhiwalli who came to Mumbai (SIES and lived in Koliwada)for two years, went back to Delhi and came back to Mumbai to be a journalist (now in the US of A). We briefly bumped into each other when you were shopping for your wedding (early 90s?). The name is Geeta, and I remember your house. Imagine you writing about both my hometowns! who would have thought.
Of course, if you are not who I think you are, just amuse yourself by reading this lapse of memory.
keeping fingers crossed that both our memories serve us right.

Geeta

Greg Watts said...

Great stuff, Deepa. I love blogs that really try to get under the skin of a city and get to grips with its character. I'm trying to do this with what I write about London. As I'm sure you know, we have a very large Indian population. There are large Indian communities in Southall, near Heathrow Airport, Wembley, and in parts of the East End. Many of London's small grocery stores are run by Indians.

hard drive recovery said...

Delhi is my birth place and right now I am 25 years old. I saw the delhi very nearly. The most interesting thing about Delhi is the name of places in delhi is not related to them like Barakhamba Road, dhualan kuan , lal kuan, and many places with the name of Gardens like Rajouri or Tagore garden but you are not able to find the any kuan or gardens here. Very Funny things here in delhi like this. And the all places of india have their own culture, traditions and languages but delhi don't have. But I must say that the majority of punjabi's are ruling and baniyas are following. In last few years new delhi has changed his faced.

pannu said...

Just relocated to delhi from mumbai. And after reading the article, look forward to exploring delhi and its unique culture.

Mythraee said...

Hi,
Lovely post about Delhi. thought I would tell you how I feel about Delhi, my city of birth.This is a blogpost I wrote for my blog but I take your permission to post here.
Thanks.
themeanderingmonk.blogspot.com


The city I grew up in. Was such a pleasure to grow up in the city. Wide tree lined avenues.The leisurely walk to school in light blue skirt and cream shirt. Listening to Ponniyin Selvan narrated by a master story teller en route . Ponni, Vandiattevan and Azhwar kadiayaan, all, so fresh in the mind's eye. After 40 years! Unbelievable.

The even more leisurely ambling walk back. The Sunday morning stroll in the Lodi Garden next to school. The blue bells on the compound walls. The huge lawns of the Lodi Estate houses. The mali shooing the children away from jamun trees.

What joy!

The white washed rows of houses in solid Russian design. The huge arches. The dark galis. Especially no fear of walking alone any time. The punjaabis, the gadwalis, the bengalis and of course the madrasis. Anyone beyond the Vindhyas were called so.

We happily fit into the category.

The languorous summer afternoons. Not a soul in sight. Even the crows and sparrows disappeared. 4' O clock in the afternoon and the city would come to life lazily as if it was the second morning of the day. The 'chanachoor garmagaram' wala selling his ware in paper cones would appear magically from nowhere. His sonorous song still playing back in memory. That was the indication that it is time for the much restrained kids to go out to play. The ganderriyan - neatly chopped, mouth sized, ready to chew sugarcane pieces - seller with iced sugarcane pieces flavoured with rosewater on his cart. His mound of chopped sugar cane pieces laced with pink rose petals, smelling heavenly. The lawns watered using hosepipes smelling of wet earth on a summer day.

Nothing to compensate for such sights and sound.

Mythraee

The Summer nights. Rows and rows of charpais spread with white spotless bedsheets. Surais-the mud pots with narrow necks- filled with water.The common open dormitory on the terrace. Tales of partition told - Oh ! so dramatically in an alien tongue- multani, listened to with rapt attention inter spread with translations for us madrasis' benefit. With, 'The news read by Surjit Sen...' playing on the radio somewhere in the background indicating that it was 9 'O clock and time to go to bed.To lie supine and watch the twinkling of the stars in the darkened sky.

Can't think of anything compensating this day at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

Winters! The early morning chill of October, making way from half sweaters to full sleeved ones. The clicking of the knitting needles in every other woman's hand. Such bright colors ! Such patterns! The charpais under the winter Sun. The revdis and moongphalis and bers. Such treats to munch listening to cricket commentary.


All mornings and afternoons spent under the Sun in the full glare of the neighbourhood. The transistor playing vividhbharati, celebrating Lata and Rafi's resplendent voices. The 'Behnon ka karikram' at 1 O' clock that would talk on benefits of small family in a very kosher manner. :)

The 26th January Republic Day Parade. Nothing as dramatic as Mani Ratnam's version. But glorious all the same. With no barricades and only a small VIP enclosure. Any one could walk in anywhere and take the pleasure of watching from the front row with national pride brimming in
you.

One actually faintly remembers President Radhakrishnan and Panditji from those days.

Such simple pleasures.

Mythraee said...

Hi,

Discovered your blog a few days ago. Loved your Delhi posts.
Apologies for cross posting but I thought it would be interesting for you to know what I think about Delhi, the city of my birth.
http://themeanderingmonk.blogspot.com/2010/01/city-i-grew-up-in.html
Thanks,
Mythraee

Who Inspiration said...

hye! Just chanced upon ur blog... im new to this space... just wrote my 1st blog some days ago!!

Ah Delhi Saddi Delhi !! Lived 2 yrs in Noida and was so close yet so far from delhi and now everytime im down to delhi a feeling of belongingness is there!! will continue later... follow me Whoinspiration

Restaurants in Noida said...

Thank You.....

Your blog is very informative and I will keep updated with the

same.

Restaurants in Delhi

Shreya said...

Hey! It feels like I am still missing out on the fun... When I was a kid, I was quite into "falling in love with dilli" and all of that! But since I've come here, been living here for almost 2 years at a stretch I miss out on enthusiastic companion. So if at all you are taking on new proteges to show the awesome place called dilli,,, I am in! I am inspired !