You were told there would be tall buildings, short buildings, houses and bizarre structures of architects. You were told to travel by sterile metro railways that are built to guide your feet and where people follow the rules. You were told to wear a mask on the road, as the polluted air would be as thick as a winter blanket.
In Delhi, there would be Secretariat, Parliament, India Gate, Qutub Minar, Chandni Chowk, Red Fort and ruins of Hauz Khas and museums—of art, literature, history and folklore. The sheer architectural beauty of the architecture would attract you. It will transform your thoughts; make you wonder and readjust your notion of space, effort, dedication and imagination. On the street, there would be artists, coffee shops, tea shops and men who smile as they sell you anything and everything from peanuts, cigarette pipes, to drugs and passports.
In Delhi, you will be perpetually hungry, even when your stomach is full. The most interesting food will be available on streets. Every five minutes there will be some stall selling peanuts, ‘Kachori’ or ‘Paratha’ or ice creams. The sellers won’t be selling food for money but for you, for your appetite and for your taste buds. They will be selling cold ice cream in the coldest winter, by wearing layers of clothing and dirty mufflers. They would be sitting under the street lamps, next to old post boxes, where their faces are no more remembered.
In Delhi, the food joints and restaurants will be everywhere. The exterior of the most building won’t be as pretty as Louis Vuitton in Paris, but you will find treasures and surprises once you get inside.
In Delhi, you will get the feeling that someone is following you. Wherever you go, even on entering a public toilet. These followers will always look at you and desire you. They will look like any common face in the crowd. They may have jobs, degrees and families, but they will still desire you. When you ask for direction, besides directions they will offer philosophical advice on life. You would nod in approval, but rather take goodbye instead.
In Delhi, there would be nights outside at tables lit by candles, under shadows. The men would be wearing blazers, suits and expensive coats and women would be wearing elegant saris. Someone would be singing ‘Ghazals’ under the expensive chandelier, but a few would be listening to the singer, most to their beloved someone. A young girl would be sitting with a book all alone, waiting for someone. The book would be some popular novel or a book by Arundhati Roy, sewn with nationalism and baseless arguments, but glued with melody.
In Delhi, there would be a rage on the streets and in your heart. The anger would be mostly for things that matter. There would be colourful flags and a sign of Amar Javan and presence of men and women in uniform. There would be youngsters holding their fists together hand-in-hand performing street plays against the latest rape case. You will be tempted to join them in their cause, but instead, you will wait… drink a sip of water and walk past.
In Delhi, there would be Khan Market, where the usual brat would be blowing his father’s money with expensive purchases. He would be somebody’s son, perhaps a politician’s. He would throw attitude at you and try to impress you with his money. But if he opens his mouth to speak only filth will pour out. In the crowd, there will be a few common men. They will be roaming with brooms, in hope to eradicate the filth of politicians. But in front of the guns of these usual brats, their brooms will be dysfunctional.
Occasionally the air will be so dense that it will penetrate your pupils, carrying the aura of sadness. That sadness will be visible in the eyes of an auto-rickshaw puller. On those misty days, no one would be celebrating, there would be a few people on the roads, rushing to their homes for a sumptuous lunch or dinner.
Even then it will be the city you will speak about to people back home, explaining that it wasn’t fierce, that there were people here who loved the city and maybe loved each other.