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.