Sunday, February 1, 2009

New Delhi - Reincarnation Nation

New Delhi has been built and re-built more than nine times. And after only nine days, this hectic town can instill within oneself that same sense of constant collapse and chaos. I have now surpassed nine weeks. I am Delhi and Delhi is me: well, busy, great, exhausted, tried and tested, exalted and buried, and resurrected!

A demanding city; personally, professionally, emotionally, socially (etc., Etc., ETC.).

The traffic demands that I step aside (honk, honk!). The vendors demand that I shell out my foreign earnings without discretion. The locals demand that I declare my ambiguous tongue and origin. All prospective employers from even the most non-corporate of sectors demand that we behave in a conduct that is strictly corporate. The ubiquitous armed forces demand that I submit myself to countless rub-downs when entering the metro, temples, parks (etc.). The cows demand that I hop-scotch around their droppings. The breeze demands that my throat endure gaseous ammonium evaporating off innumerable sights of public urination.

These demands eventually generate demands within myself: "Escape! Get out before you are consumed!" I reach Amritsar to savour warm and buttery gulab jamuns (i.e. a syrupy sweatmeat). I soak in the Arabian and therapeutic sunsets of Goa. I ride elephants through Assamese jungles. I am rebuilt and renewed! My mind clears. I am at ease. And my appetite for Delhi returns.

I pursue that return ticket to Delhi and still fetal flame burns out most quickly. The saying goes that who ever builds a new Delhi will lose it. Every time I build my new self in New Delhi, I lose it; literally! On top of the demands from the city, there are demands from the relatives.

The relatives demand that I justify unemployment. The relatives demand that I justify an academic qualification that does not bear the acronym of MBA or IT. The relatives demand that I justify shaving my head ("I am deeply devoted to Krishna"; that is my answer and I am sticking to it). The relatives demand that I consume a spoonful of ghee (clarified butter) for every spoonful I (attempt to) refuse. The relatives demand that I explain my comings and stayings and goings beyond that which their own children are never confronted with. The relatives demand that I be interested in conversing about the quality of the food served at a wedding, the size of the lawn rented out for a wedding, the necessity to book a wedding hall well enough in advance when a lawn cannot be sorted, the pros and cons between marriage to a Punjabi versus a non-Punjabi, the differentiation between a wedding that is pretentious versus one that is ostentatious (etc.). Subsequently, the relatives demand that I enjoy myself although I am uncontrollably (and undeniably) bored.

The relatives, the relatives, the relatives, the relatives…I give up! I will never stand tall in this capital (at least never for too long a time) when among relatives.

Delhi cannot escape this cycle of reincarnation (and neither can I, so long as I remain here) because, as history can attest, it is bound to permanent impermanence. Architectural remnants bear testament to the numerous resurrections and reinventions of Delhi. The elegantly crumbling Lodhi Tombs, leftover from the 15th century by the Lodhi Dystany, play backdrop to family picnics and shy lovers who sneak love-bites in the dead of day behind brush. Mughal structures, like the towering Qutub Minar, remain erect with rather romantic scars of neglect. Fast-forward to the British Raj and their Parliamentary edifices which now administer 'the world’s largest democracy'. Government offices have maintained their physique but many political critics might suggest that democracy in India endures considerable decay.

Delhi’s present narrative of reincarnation, under new found rules of market capitalism and freedoms of trade, remains much the same. Newly paved curbs crumble at the corners because contractors mix sand into the cement to pocket the savings. Steel frames envelop concrete and glass to construct sparkling new shopping malls that will soon close for business because vendors cannot possibly afford expensive commercial space void of rent control and, further, vendors cannot compete with the prices offered in adjacent bazaars selling comparable goods (though, not matched with customer service).

A day away from Delhi is a day spent well. Do not hate on me. Hate on the experience that is my Delhi.

*images have been captured by myself


Anonymous said...

I LOVE your post! I LOVE Delhi. I want to go back so badly and experience the crazyness and the traffic and the vendors and the smells and the everything

Anonymous said...

I moved house this weekend. You are coming to stay with me in April, thats not an invitation, thats a command. My couch has your name written all over will the body scrubs Ill buy you to wash of all those India bacteria...eeewwwwww.

Anonymous said...

You should write a book, man. Rid

Natasha Goulfam said...

Thank you... Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, your feelings, your experiences... It's so good and refreshing and enriching to feel India through your eyes and your words... it will keep me going until I can go back there myself... Until then I will be eagerly waiting for the next update of Rahul's travels... Take care, Love, Natasha.

Anonymous said...

My goodness, u r never short on words to describe anything in your life! I wish I could get my students to be more descriptive in their journals!
You seem to have a bitter sweet relationship with india - doesn't seem like ur ever happy with the way something else, or ur immensely overwhelmed with emotional pleasure.

Remy said...

Rahul, it sounds like your relatives will eventually drive you out of Delhi before the insanity of the city will. :)