A love letter to Delhi
It has been years since they lived in Delhi but love of these expatriates for the place they once called home persists. In the second part of a two-part series, listen to some global citizens who are enamoured by the city.Updated: Feb 13, 2014 13:01 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!
PhD student, geography dept, Berkeley University, California, USA
The thousand roofs of Delhi. The thousand noises, perfumes, glimmering lights of the Capital… And millions of people, walking by in busy markets, turning into that alley, getting on an auto, getting out of the subway, chatting, laughing, singing, the thousand people on the streets of Delhi, the thousands of them, the thousands of us, who make the heart of India pulse. Yes, I was part of that once. In a way, I always will be.
Yes, I saw Delhi. I saw the amazing colours of the saris weaving their way through the crowd, I saw the tears of children crying, the wrinkles of old men smiling, walking by in the beehive of the train stations.
I listened to Delhi. I listened to the traffic, to each single auto zig-zagging its way across traffic. It's always rush hour in Delhi.
I touched Delhi. I touched the soft, weightless fabric on sale at the street market; I know how it feels to stick your hand in a bag full of lentils.
I tasted Delhi. I tasted the plush sweet mangoes, I tasted every single lassi, I tasted that one kiss.
And I smelled Delhi. I smelled the street food and the garbage, I smelled the sandalwood, the rain. I remember everything about the city - the people, the thousand trees, growing in every corner, everywhere, in the greenest city of Asia. I looked at every leaf, at every face. Some, I'll never forget. I can't. Most of all, I "felt" Delhi. I know how it feels to shake somebody's hand when you first meet them, but the encounter is in the eyes, it's in the smile, and it's in that movement of the head that only Indians do. I still find myself, seven years later, doing that same movement with my head - achha thik hai. It's still there. It won't go away. Thank God. It's part of the piece of Delhi that's still inside me. And it's part of the piece of me that I left there.
Age: 30; Profession: external relations officer at the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
Hometown: California, USA
I thought little of my move to Switzerland after living in Delhi for two and a half years. I was so preoccupied with hoarding everything I may ever want to wear from Sarojini, every DVD I could dream of from Palika Bazaar, and a lifetime of Christmas gifts from Dilli Haat… It wasn't until my taxi into Zurich hit traffic that a sudden a wave of anxiety came over me. It couldn't be the traffic, to which I was quite accustomed, but something was terribly wrong.
Then it hit me. It was silent. An eerie nerve-wracking silence, as if I had gone deaf or the world had been put on mute. The Swiss do not blare their horns as a courtesy; "Horn Please" signs do not exist here. No trucks and cars and rickshaws and carts were clamouring to merge into each others' made-up traffic lanes. It was just orderly silence. And I felt overwhelmingly alone.
I know few places on earth that are as alive as
. It is not just the sheer number of residents. It is the city itself that has a heartbeat. It is outgrowing itself by the minute, bursting with possibilities, violently clashing its past against its inevitable future. It is a city where a three-story shopping mall pops up overnight, but the street in front of it still lacks a sidewalk, crosswalk or traffic-light three years later. It is a city where one can pop into a coffee shop for a latte on the way to work and nearly trip over a 400 pound bull laying in front of the exit (yes that happened to me!). It is a city of fascinating wonders and contradictions. It is simply impossible to be bored. All of your senses are on overdrive at all times. There is never a shortage of sounds or sights or smells, and even when you want to shut it off, you cannot. Delhi is intrusively alive. And I miss it terribly. I miss the chaos and the creativity that exists because of it - "everything is possible" after all. I miss the way I felt in Delhi. Both empowered by the energy and humbled by the vastness of it. I realise now how many of my close friends are from that time in my life. Experiencing Delhi-life is something that cannot be explained; it can only be understood and shared. We were together in that living, breathing city. And somehow, it became part of me.
special assistant to the president, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York, USA
I miss the air. I flew into Delhi after more than a year and the warm, familiar air brought up a depth of emotion. Although India is not my home, I lived there for two years and keep returning every now and then; I feel a sense of homecoming when enveloped once again by this air and all the smells and sounds that it carries. I miss shopping in Dilli Haat and eating momos with friends at the tables in the back. I miss Old Delhi and the maze of narrow alleys and overflowing shops that I found there.
I miss parantha wali gulley and the incredible food that I ate there. I miss learning Bharatnatyam and Kathak with my friends and performing fusions of ballet and these Indian styles.
I learned so much about myself and my passion for dance via these experiences, connecting my heart and soul to dance in a way I had never learned throughout my professional ballet career in the US.
I miss rooftop gatherings on warm nights, drinking Kingfisher. These evenings always brought such an eclectic mix of Delhiites and expats that made for great connections and incredible conversations about life, art, politics, travel, and Yoga, among others. Some of my most honest and connected relationships were those I forged with people in Delhi. Likely, a function of the depth of emotion and spirit of those I met there. I miss all these experiences that a life in Delhi affords, but mostly, I miss the beauty of a city where incredible and unexpected things could (and did) happen every day, and where the challenge of everyday life creates a sense of urgency and raw reality that makes one feel very much alive. I miss Delhi, and it will always have a piece of my heart.