Dilli And The Dreams
Rabbi Shergil, the sufi maestro and Mayank Austen Soofi, the author of the The Delhi Walla Blog, happen to be two ardent fans of Delhi. This is what connects me to them. Not that they know of my existence or probably will anytime soon, but it still connects us. What impresses me about them is their willingness to find peace in the city of chaos.
A lot of you reading this are from Delhi. A lot of you aren’t. But most of you know what Delhi is like. You know, there’s the tall Qutab Minar and the beautiful India Gate and the silent Raj Ghat. Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games and it has nice roads and cool pubs and the metro railway system. So, you know what delhi is like. But have you felt what Delhi feels like?
Delhi ceases to amaze none with its originality and Dilli-ness. Fair question, what is Dilli-ness? From the archaic remains to the urban scrapers, the sophisticated eateries to the footpath chatwallas, the posh colonies to the crowded muhallas, the clean airports to the dirty railway stations, the hidden warmth that the bustling city provides to the common man, is the Dilli-ness.
The greatness of Delhi lies in the fact that it’s not just the Rich-Man’s city. Whether you’re one of those who prefer to empty half their wallet’s contents at a local shop in the Lajpath Rai Market over Salwar-Kameez and Kurtas or one of those who prefer to blow half their bank balance at Gucci in the Khan Market, Delhi would loves you equally as much. It treats those who’d prefer to snack over Moong Dal Laddu amidst shopping at the Sarojini Nagar Market equally as it treats those who’d stop by the United Coffee House in Connought Place once their legs feel worn out after circling the outer circle.
Here you find the honest Policewala and the not-so-honest Policewala. The honest Policewala is the kinds that you’d never want to encounter unless you’re in trouble because of somebody else, for he won’t set your ass free until you’ve been punished for your deeds. And the not-so-honest one, who’d settle for whatever is in your pocket. (and would call your dad up if you’re a student with no money to spare, speaking from personal experience).
[This once my friend was caught riding a scooty without a license, obviously. All he had in his pocket was a candy. And as he claims, the Policeman took it as a bribe and let him go. It surprises me as much as it surprises you].
You find that the people who spend the morning-akhbaar-aur-chai sessions calling the government and the police department corrupt are the first ones to offer a “Sau ka note” when caught skipping a red light. You find hordes of them taking rounds of government offices, calling the government and its officials names for making them take rounds of their offices and being slower than a turtle with rheumatism. And you find some of them sitting at home peacefully when it’s the voting day. You also find strict papas and dadajis with high morals and intellectual thoughts, passing it onto the current generation and the one to come.
You find women. Some very pretty and some not so much. But each one of them, with a common cause of concern. “Offoh. Yeh dilli ke ladke. Ghurte hain hamein”. Regardless of whether it’s a 36-24-36 or a 362-436-362, men stare when they feel like. I remember this once when I entered a metro coach, next to me was a pretty woman standing. Almost as though it was a statue of Mahatma Gandhi made out of pure gold, all eyes were on her. From top to bottom. As a matter of fact Mahatma Gandhi would consider himself lucky in 2011 if he could fetch more eyes than a woman can, standing in a Delhi Metro Coach. And then there are the men who hurriedly give their seats up when a woman, specially old, is in sight.
There are school kids. Pretty (famous) girls from schools like Modern School Barakhambha Road with butter leg short skirts and smart boys and girls from schools like DPS R.K Puram & Mathura Road. Amongst the same kids are the rich-dad’s-spoilt kids and the talented yeh-toh-iit-nikalega kids without the rich dads, who will one day be rich.
There are the markets. From the posh Khan Market to the cheap Palika Bazaar Market where with awful bargaining skills you could buy something priced at Rs.700 for Rs.70, to the famous second-hand-book-market at Daryaganj where almost anything from the hard copy of Shakespeare’s volumes to the raunchy magazines with hot babes on its cover to the Twilight Series of books to the Career Launcher and FiitJee modules can be found for 1/5th of the original price. The all-time-famous hangout place of delhi, the CP Inner Circle where you could go just at about any time of the day to find a pretty faces and fast food joints and over-priced clothing [Happens to be one of my favorite hang-out places]. And the local market a few blocks away from your house where aunties can be found purchasing the household-necessary goods and bhaiyyas and didis can be found whiling their time away, eating junk food or just wandering around, enjoying.
The Thekas or as they call it in the movies, the Daru Ka Addas where “Yahan chilled veeyar evum deshi sharab milti hai”. You’re not stopped from buying things unless your teen-ness is way too apparent. Inside the thekas are the happy men who were promoted and the frustrated men who’re bored of their wives and the college friends who’re meeting after a long while and the wannbe-drunkard teen who just tasted the first sip of alcohol and felt like a super hero (and nearly puked, then).
There’s the food. The chats and the papris and aalo tikkis at the Haldirams and Bikanerwalas, and the sizzling kebabs and rumali rotis at Pappi Di Hattis, Sunny Chikkan Cornars and the Chawla Chic Inns [chicken joints with the same names spread all over Delhi]. Of course, there are the Nazims, Khan Chachas and world-reknowned Karims who’re famous for their authentic mughlai non-vegetarian food. And the Pind Balluchis and the Moti Mahals for their authentic vegetarian food.
The much talked about (and tabooed) GB road. Where you’re told to go whenever your friends think you’re horny or or whenever you don’t feel that a question deserves a proper response.
“Kal absent kyun tha be?”
-“GB road mein busy tha :\.
“TU GB ROAD GAYA?!?!?!”
-” Abe bimaar tha main :\ “
“Kal movie dekhne chalega?”
“Kyun saale? GB road jana hai?”
And there are the beggars, who feel the city is the cruel-most to them. Who’re not as innocent as they may seem, for the city has taught them the rough way to live life. It has taught them the few dark tricks that they need in order to survive. They don’t use the outdated “Bhagwan ke naam pe dijiye madam” [even this is outdated now]. They wear fake plasters and carry babies which aren’t theirs to gain sympathy. They persuade you to give money to them by wishing well for whatever it is that you’ve set out to achieve. They wish well to wives about their husbands and kids, and to husbands about their jobs, and to kids about their grades. But all of it, with no mal-intention. Just the desperate hole created in their stomachs and minds by the devil called hunger. And if out of stupidity and the desire to diss, you throw a couple lines of Angrezi at them in a bid to prove your smartness, they might just reply back with a sentence or two of Fractured Angrezi learnt to persuade the firangis [Foreigners].
Amongst the beggars you find the Hijras or the neuters who do sometimes *clap* like they do in the movies and go “Aye Handsome. Paeesa de naa” [One of my friends sitting in an autorickshaw, got to hear a “Aye re kyutee bai. Paanch rupiya de na”, but are not as scary or pathetically shrewed as they’re sometimes portrayed to be. There’s a softer, desperate side to them as well.
Dilli makes a good mother. She understands that amongst her children, the poor ones wish they could be rich and the rich ones wish they could permanently remain rich. The ugly ones wish they could look pretty and the pretty ones wish they’d never age. The kids wish they were adults and the adults wish they could live their childhood just once more. The women wish they were physically stronger and the men wish that the women were just as perverted as they are. The wives wish their husbands were more romantic and the husbands wish their wives spent lesser on their shopping trips.
And it is only because she knows that the human satisfaction knows no boundaries that she gives to herr children a city full of magic and fortunes, and quietly watches, as they make noise.