I cant begin to imagine what Qutubuddin Aibak would say if he saw the present day capital. Chances are he might faint, recuperate, get duped and then learn exactly how to fall in love with a city that will grow on you.
The first day I got off at the Hazrat Nizamuuddin Railway station, with over stuffed bags and an eager heart, I knew this shehar was going to rope me in and make me fall head over heels in love with it, at least I hoped all that would happen and believe me when I say this, it did.
There are more than a few things this city showed me and I know its going to be difficult doing justice to that but I am still giving it a shot.
- The city: For the first few months I was in complete awe of the size of the city and how it was laid out. The five unforgettable regions of Delhi had to be learnt by heart if you wanted to work the place out.
Central Delhi: Lutyens Delhi is the administrative area of Delhi that was designed by a British Architect names Sir Edward Lutyens. It has the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Parliament, India Gate, Rajpath, Ashoka Road, Race Course Road etc that make it the best piece of real estate around. It is completely normal to spot the finance minister drive into his bungalow or watch traffic make way for the PM's Convoy. It also is the cleanest part of Delhi.
South Delhi- The side where the nouveau riche decided to settle down. The typical Southy would have a gated house, at least 3 maids, will only talk in English and always have manicured nails. She will be the so called modern mother who would see her child only in between her yoga, gym and zumba class. She lives and breathes society parties and kitties.
North Delhi- Purani Dilli, is north Delhi with places like VishwaVidyalay, Laal Quila, Jama Masjid, Civil Lines and Sadar Bazar. It is the most talked about part of Delhi and most active. From Sound and light shows at laal Quila, to cheese maggi in front of Miranda House, the galli and nukkads to reach daulat ki chaat, Friday prayers in Jama Masjid and the most famous Karims are all a part of North Delhi. There isn't a specific species to this area but most business start here, flourish here and crumble here.
West Delhi- All the shop owners in North Delhi build sprawling bungalows in the West. Rajouri garden, Punjabi Bagh, Rajender Nagar, Patel Nagar are all places with old money and family heirlooms that have been eyed by most family members. This is where the actually DILLIWAALAH originated. From more than just a few experiences I can say, a true blue Dilliwaalah is the man who will curse at the signal, have at least 3 cars at home ( all dented), call a flat- a flat and never a home because only independent houses can be homes and will eat at the same restaurant because he is used to it. He will be the uncleji, mamuji, chachaji to more than 40 kids and will plan his Diwali parties well in advance.When you see him on the street you are most likely to make a face but when he is in the shop shouting orders to some kid 'called bittu' he will be the nicest man around.This man will make you believe you are buying the best product and if its spoilt he will say ' koi nahi ji' and change it immediately....
His son on the other hand, the modern Dilliwaalah, will drive his new 'Merseddis' to the shop, carry an Iphone, wear Hugo Boss, but will never ever have the knack of business like his dad had at his age. He will have a wedding that will cost more than a little village and a wife whose father would've paid for most of it. This man and his wife will wear a Gucci shirt, carry an Hermes scarf and a Prada bag but will not know where the brands are from and what they are actually famous for. Believe me when I say it , it is these people that make Delhi what it is.
East Delhi- This is the Middle Class- trying to make it big- part. Localities like Mayur Vihar, Preet Vihar, Patpargunj are all filled with people saving enough to buy the smallest available house in Rajouri Garden. They will talk of all the above mentioned brands but will buy the closest fake from Sarojini.
The one thing I forgot to mention was, where you live is a very integral part of who you are, at least for the Dilliwaalahs.
- The Food: Chole Bature in Pahargunj, Gali Parathe waali's garma garam Parathas, Seekh Kababs at Karims, Pani Puri in Karol Bagh, Roshan di Kulfi, Milkshake at Keventers, Lemon tarts at Wengers, Masala Dosas at Swagat, Butter Chicken at Moti Mahal, Kathi rolls in CR Park, Tandoori momos near Venkys, Anjeer Doodh at Pandara Road, Chocolate Paan at Prince Paan. PHEWW!!! If you are a foodie living in Delhi, make sure you buy some loose denims or switch to Salwars where the fat is hidden, because Delhi sure can make you eat. Every meeting, function or conversation for most Dilliwaalahs revolves around food. The first question in most houses will be ' Khaane main kya hain'. They love their food and it shows. It is the only place where a function is judged by the food served and women are chosen by their culinary skills. There will eternally be some food festival on and a restaurant somehow pops up every third day. If you hear a 'Mazza aagaya yaar' you know the place is going to be successful.
- The Lingo: If you hear a 'haanj madamji the minute your out of home, you know you are in Delhi. The average Delhite will curse at least 3 times a day, say 'Koi Nai ji' more than 30 times and will definitely add in ' Badiya Hai and Hojaayega' whenever required. There are new words coined every day at the signals, in schools and at offices, some go on to becoming famous while the others just wilt and fade away. I have always been known for my sailors dictionary and Delhi just reaffirmed that and added a few more to it. It isn't just about the word with the common Delhiite, it is the emotion, the timing and the ability to include family members you dearly love. The outcome is always brutal but hilarious.
- Jugaad: Life wouldn't exist in Delhi if it weren't for this word. It means a lot of things but mostly just an innovative fix to a problem, big or small. Everything from the political system to the new piston on 'Kishan Bhaiyyas' bike is Jugaadu. It has been fixed by a smart man who knew the right people, never mind if they are shady, to get the job done. The most Jugaad is done during weddings when the tent will be held by a clothes line and the Panditji would've been rented from the colony waala Mandir. It will be the only time a chef who can sort of drive will be sent to buy last minute saaman because all the other drivers were busy bringing in the guests. This word gives you hope, makes you worry and question your surroundings. It will never let you trust completely but will also teach you how to put complete faith in a quack who thinks he can fix something for a cheaper rate.
- Delhi Winters: Tadpaaye Tadsaayere Saari Raat Jagayere yeh Dilli Ki Sardi, I couldn't have found an apter way of explaining how Delhi winters feel. There is a world of a difference in staying in Delhi for 5 days during the winter and squealing every time fog came out of your mouth to actually living in the capital for those 3 months of biting cold. Its fascinating to watch how the people gear up for the cold, with their woollens put out to dry, new ones bought at Janpath and Gaffar Market. When the fat Razai is taken out of the trunk and the thermals are kept ready. It is a different feeling to wake up at 630 am on a cold January morning and walk out only to have this icy cold wind slap you in the face and wish you good day. There is a sense of relief when you enter a room with a heater, thaw your hands and your face and readily agree to a hot cup of chai. The joys of eating Shakkar Ganji and Kulche's at the thela waala are like no other. But, nothing beats the process of getting dressed for the winters, the auntyji's in their shoes and long kurta sweaters, Unclejis with their checked mufflers and monkey caps, pinky strutting her boots and long coats and Bittu lighting a sutta as he chills in his sweatshirt and watches Pinky from the other side of the road. Delhi winters can become depressing and needs a lot of hard work but it is completely worth it.
The city can make you cry and laugh at the same time. Its people will disgust you and be equally warm. There will be at least 3 cases of Delhi belly before you get used to the Khaana. The gaalis will always get more innovative and its winters always more harsh. But, if you haven't lived and loved Delhi by now, I think its time you did.
Yeh Dilwaalon ki Dilli hai bhai, Yahaan Pyaar aur Jugaad se sab chaljaayega :D:D