Expats, in love with Delhi
As part of a series, we focus on the expatriates who once lived in the city and still profess their love and longing for it. They love it all -- the city's mayhem, its melting pot of characters, its food and its sounds and sights.travel Updated: Feb 11, 2014 19:16 IST
Every now and then, a new, fresh perspective on things is a welcome change. Our city, undergoing sundry changes, is still loved by us all. In an attempt to remind ourselves how, as a city, we stand strongly for unity in diversity, we bring to the fore some people from across the globe who show us how Delhi itself is loved and remembered fondly by them, too. They come forward and profess their love for the Capital they resided in once - they love and miss Delhi, and how!
Age: 31; Profession: Development Consultant, Centre for Social Research, New Delhi, India
Native place: California, USA
I have a love/hate relationship with Delhi. It is a city that's like the enfant terrible of friends. She is prone to giving off radical shocks to your senses just for a rise. Then just as suddenly she is disarming you with her unsuspecting allure. You could say but that's so New York or so London - at its best. But Delhi is her own complicated animal - she is different. Delhi is blunt and temperamental, ultimately an untamable beast of a city. It is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
And like the wild but loveable canine of the film Marley & Me, it is a city you have to grow to appreciate. It just grows under your skin. After over a year of living in Delhi, I amassed a colourful arsenal of Delhi dispatches. Dispatches that stand in unique contrast to my adventures elsewhere around India. It is precisely why I'm always cognisant of separating the two. This giant noisy city is teeming with manic road traffic and busy streets; while its historical greatness looms in the background. Alive, it can be complete bedlam once you brave the streets.
On my worst days I'm cursing cheating auto drivers, I'm glaring back at the fixed stares that greet me on streets or I'm reeling at storied transgressions that populate the daily news. But on most days, I'm reveling in Sufi nights out with my shiniest jootis on, I'm targeting leather purses at the Yashwant Place market and I'm boasting to anyone that will listen how the most delicious murg tikka your mouth has ever tasted can be found at a corner dhaba in Lajpat Nagar.
If there is a rhythm to this city then I'm woefully left footed. However, it is a little dance that I'm still determined to master. Though I continue to endure a fitful relationship with Delhi, she has admittedly charmed my experience here.
Game Scriptwriter at Pretty Simple, Paris, France
is like seeing the world through a kaleidoscope. Sometimes dazzlingly beautiful, sometimes sombre and thought-provoking, Delhi's streets paint a constantly changing portrait of human experience. If I am honest, I do not miss the imposing elegance of Humayun's tomb, the tranquil beauty of the Lodi Gardens, nor any of the other impressive sites of cultural and historical significance that adorn India's Capital.
I miss Delhi's boisterous personality, its diverse melting pot of characters. I miss the sleepy looking snake charmer sitting outside my house. I miss the sedate group of men playing cards in the park. I miss the giggling girls at the beauty parlour. I miss both, the cheerful and the grumpy auto-drivers in equal measure. I miss sharing a pot of lip-gloss with an old man on a train. I miss the constant potential for unexpected and sometimes bizarrely intimate exchanges with strangers. Delhi, there is no place like you, and I miss you very much.
Communication Advisor for Doctors Without Borders, Barcelona, Spain
Delhi. You would tell your friends back home how much you love the city and, when they finally visited, they would look at you as if you were absolutely insane. Let's face it: Delhi is a total nightmare full of pollution, dirt and noise. Unpleasant is a euphemism for a city that challenges your emotional balance every single day.
It takes ages to reach everywhere. It's either too cold or too hot. You feel lonely, battling a giant who does not spare efforts to ruin your existence. This is the most valuable lesson I learnt in the Indian Capital: Delhi always wins, so don't fight. The reasons why someone would like Delhi are, therefore, always in the realm of the emotions and the imagination. Slowly, the city gets into you. Literally. You no longer feel you're living in a horrible place. It's not so bad, you think. It's actually OK. Before you realise, you find yourself talking to friends and relatives about one of the greatest cities of all times: Delhi, of course. She's in every conversation you have, she convinces you of her invisible beauty as you are learning to hate her.
I have problems to put down in words what it is exactly that I love about Delhi. For mine is only the biased view of a European who lived in India for a few years, and this is often a romantic vision. I can't help it, though, whenever I think of Delhi, my mind goes back to my old motorbike, the dhabas in Nizamuddin, and the chase of news in a city where you are always late. And then I remember these lines by the Mexican poet Octavio Paz: "Your whole body was writing / Remember / Recover the words / You are beautiful / You know how to talk and sing and dance / Delhi / Two towers / Planted on the plains / Two tall syllables / I say them in a low voice."