I love Delhi. I love it for its warmth. I love it for its spring, its ostentation, its wealth, its power, and its idiosyncrasies. I love it for the melting pot of culture, communities and languages that it is. I love it for its size and its ability to accommodate so many of us. Despite its faults I have loved it since I, like many of you, decided to make it my home many years ago.
Back then, Delhi had its wide, open roads; children still flew kites in Malviya Nagar; Mayur Vihar was just beginning to get populated; Gurgaon was a village, and Noida would largely remain one for many more years. There was a badly lit park in the middle of Connaught Place; Palika Bazar was not as crummy an underground market as it is today; and the laid-back coffee house in the Super Bazar building offered decent dosas and dark, quite corners to the amorous kind. History was all around us — whether the Red Fort, the Qutub Minar, or those old Harley Davidsons that ferried you to Chandni Chowk.
Much has changed. Delhi is bigger, higher, wider and more crowded. Roads have shrunk under the mass of humanity and the vehicles that crawl over them. It has become a centre of learning; a cultural hub that seemed improbable not too long ago.
Post-independence refugee colonies where families lived in barracks-like structures have turned hip and expensive. There are sprawling, glitzy shopping malls around us. The greenery in the city has largely remained untouched even though the coming of a shiny Metro and the high capacity bus service has felled many trees. Lodhi Garden is still a favourite, but South Extension and Greater Kailash have lost their lustre. Raja Garden is the new haunt.
More importantly, Delhi is a much younger city today. It has become India’s most fashionable and fashion-conscious town. It has shed its ‘khet-kisan’ garb and has become sophisticated and accommodating. The overgrown village of the past has become a megalopolis of flashy cars and flashier people. Folks in Delhi have never been ashamed to ask about the car you drive, where you live and how much money you make. That’s a starting point of most conversations. And there’s nothing embarrassing about asking such questions for those who know that enjoying life is nothing to be embarrassed about.
The historian Percival Spear, who spent many decades studying India and taught at St Stephens College for many years, called New Delhi “the stop-go capital”. A 1989 article in the New York Times stated that Spear meant that the “city had an unusually uneven and protean history, changing its face, its ethnic composition, its religious character and its role as a sub-continental metropolis from century to century or decade to decade.”
Indeed, the capital of India has changed in the last decade, more than in the previous 10 years. Its face, composition and boundaries have changed again. But its heart has not. Despite the big malls, most people would still want to shop in Karol Bagh. Most also feel that the best deals are available in Sarojini Nagar, not Lajpat Nagar or Janpath. They love its greenery, and despite all those cars, most Delhiites still travel by pesky buses that kill far too many people every year.
Starting today Hindustan Times will celebrate that very change. Over the next several days, we’ll bring you the best of Delhi — everything that makes you love this place. We will write about people who have made a difference to the city. We will celebrate the Spirit of Delhi, its diversity. We will celebrate the food of Delhi, its music, its poetry, its history, its youth, its inhibitions, traditions, its banality and its future. We will celebrate you — our reader.
Come join us as we lay Delhi’s golden heart bare. Share with us your experience of living in Delhi. What makes it special? What makes it fun? What makes it tick? Look for all the good things around you. We’ll be waiting to hear from you about your love affair with a city that means so much to us, so much to you, about your love for the city that is ours.
The author is the Editor, New Delhi.