I took a peaceful slurp of the blackest tea imaginable. It seemed to fill my senses with a warmth that penetrated to the very sinews of my being. Spiky and hot. Just the way the city outside looked as seen from the glassy window panels of my office building. The tall columns of the adjacent buildings stood erect, decorated with the evening lights, sparkling and glittering like the stars that had started dotting the sky.
As I made my way out a few minutes later, gelling and camouflaging myself among the colorful humanity filling the streets, I felt strangely at ease. Snatches of conversations reached my ears, some distant cackles, some rip roaring laughter, some intense phone conversations. I floated through the mass of vehicles, pedestrians, and hawkers. Stopping at a vendor’s stall, I got myself some chickpeas. Then popping a handful into my mouth every now and then, I made my way to the metro station drinking in the colorful sights and sounds littering the atmosphere.
There is something about this city that feels alive. I can’t point out exactly what. But it’s like a living breathing creature. When I walk over the overhead bridge and look down, I see an array of reds and blues, the shimmering lights indicating the horde of vehicles. Sometimes I think the city looks even more alive at night.
But then my dear Delhi has its own mood swings. When it’s angry, Delhi will give you such nail-biting cold that the winds will swish their way to your bones chilling them. When it’s upset, it will give you the driest summer of the desert and the infamous loo winds. But when it feels upbeat and is in the mood for mischief, it will let loose its empyrean hosepipes, and like an impish rogue, will cackle with glee, its thunder-styled laughter deafening you and its revitalizing rains drenching you through and through, driving away the sweat of the season. The #designs of this impulsive city are unfathomable but unimaginably beautiful. There is an ethereal quality to it all.
My #connect with the charming city though is much more tangible and material. There is the lure of trying on dresses at my favorite shops at Lajpat and Sarojini – the roaming in the markets, the bargaining, ogling at colorful clothes and window-shopping, buying innumerable shoes and countless clips and earrings. I love getting lost in the circles of Connaught Place…chasing the pigeons at the central park…feeding the squirrels that prance down the trees in my college campus…pushing peas through the wires to feed the deer at the deer park…taking scenic pictures and the all-important selfies at the forts in Hauz Khas….checking out the local flavors and popular hangouts, be it the lovers’ point of DU, Khan chacha ke roll, Majnu Ka Tilla, Big Yellow Door or some famed chhole bhature joint, and multiple other such small-scale restaurants that shoot to local fame among college-goers.
The charms of the city are too many to be listed. All I know is that I go lovey-dovey and dreamy-eyed when someone says ‘Dilli‘.
You know the best thing about this city?
When I look around myself, I find a veneer, a greyish patina surrounding everything, like a castle in the folds of clouds. They tag this city as the one of most polluted cities in the world. They call it the rape capital.
You know why?
Because the old city is like a kind king. He has been scarred and stained, embattled, ravaged and defeated. But the spirit of the man refuses to falter. He has survived all this while, greyed and withered but hardened from experience. He has welcomed all with open arms. ‘Come thither,’ he said and that continues to be his message.
Remember I was trying to pinpoint that uncanny feeling that makes the city feel alive? A strange but strong conviction?
I realize what it is now.
The city feels alive because it is like a large beating pulsating heart, throbbing with the dreams, visions and ideas of millions inhabiting its nooks and crannies.
If you try to fit the city map in the shape of a heart, you might have to crunch and do a bit ofjugaad but ultimately you will manage it, if not the graphic heart image we have been used to seeing, but at least the biological depiction of heart as we have studied in the secondary school. Because it is true after all, that Delhi truly is Dilwalon ki. It is the unrivaled city of hearts.