On Delhi, I can go on and on. I will begin with my childhood. I went to Blue Bell School, a small school in Jor Bagh. Small means the school would upgrade every time the students crossed a class: as we were promoted to Class V, the school added Class V and so on. This went on till Class VIII. Then I switched to Bal Bharti Air Force, now Air Force Bal Bharti.
As kids, we weren’t expected to score a 90 per cent and were encouraged to excel in sports and extracurricular activities. Blue Bells stressed on dramatics. Bal Bharti, on the other hand, brought me nearer to sports and swimming. Eventually, I became captain of the Delhi Swimming Team.
The next step was college. I went to Sri Ram College of Commerce but most of my time was spent in other colleges of Delhi University. The faculty was amazing.
I come from a middleclass family and Delhi never discriminated against any class.
I was an outdoor person. Naturally, I had a lovely bunch of friends, all outdoors people, like me. Today, we’d be in Himachal, and the next day in Leh or Ladakh. When in Jaipur, we watched films at Raj Mandir, which screened the big releases of the time.
I never liked hanging out at market places. Lodhi Garden or a Tughlakabad Fort was more to my liking. That way Delhi offers you a lot. It’s very close to the Himalayan foothills. So, you could always go to ISBT and ride a Rs 17 bus ticket to Manali. I frequently went to Hrishikesh, for rafting.
In India, everyone’s a movie buff. So were we. We enjoyed our movies: Chanakya being our choice of theatre, especially the morning show, where the ticket cost 65p. One was allowed to sit wherever. More often than not, I found myself there.
My mom and dad belong to Old Delhi. And I owe my passion for food to Purani Dilli. It’s a place where you have something to eat every ten steps. There was a Karims, there used to be one Haldiram, then Ghantewala and the faluda shop at Fatehpuri Chowk.
Growing up in Delhi was never unidimensional. There was so much to do. So much was happening. There were the Asian Games. The Talkatora Stadium came up and the National Stadium got a face-lift. I almost spend my youth there, from 6 am to 6 pm.
Our parents kind of let us be and do what we wanted to. At times, they didn’t even know what we were doing. The level of trust was so much. I guess, when you gain trust, there is a certain responsibility.
Delhi’s girls always amused me. They kind of boycotted me. They lived a life where they wanted to break free. At the same time they were grounded. They didn’t have much of the opportunity to venture out especially after sunset. There was contradiction between what they had and what they wanted to do.
Delhi is a politically vibrant place. Everyone there runs the country. I grew up in that environment.
I often go to Delhi. My family is still there. I was in Delhi two months ago, during Dussehra hanging out at the Ramlila. I saw Ravan being burnt. One has travelled to the biggest shows possible, including the Hollywood Ball, Radio City or the Superbowl.
To be there in Ramila grounds and see the faces of people in the crowd is fascinating. The dhool-mitti and the crowd is the character of that place, which is so unique. It intrigues me every time. On my laptop I have almost 5,000 photographs.
The greatest thing about Delhi is its history. The other best thing about it is its people. Deep down, they are sweet and good. Though on the surface, they are kind of striving and competing with one another.