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Delhi is far… Dilli door hai

I was 19 when I first arrived in Delhi. The magnificient setting sun against the backdrop of  imposing buildings  in India’s capital city certainly  looked inviting. But it was a heady  feeling for a  young girl leaving home for the first time. Unsure, a little bit scared with the baggage of a different world from a sleepy town called Bhubaneswar. In the beginning, Delhi meant JNU, my university campus. In a city like Delhi, it was an island (I really don’t know what it’s like now) but then to feel life, one needs to get out of the island and test the waters too.
It has been a long journey now. Some memories are now deep buried within myself , some are too hazy to be given an image even with the help of words. But some of them are too clear like a photograph even today. The first step outside the cocooned world of JNU and its brick-walled structure was Sarojini Nagar market alongwith my friend and roommate Lopa. The first step was taken out of sheer challenge and frustration. A friend who knew Delhi  had promised to take us but didn’t turn up at the last minute. And that pushed us to move on our own. A small step indeed but at that time it meant a lot to both of us. The feeling of discovering the market, haggling with the vendors and finding the bus back to the hostel on a sultry August evening still means a lot to me.
But I tasted the real Delhi only after I moved out of my third floor hostel room in JNU. It was a whole different world outside Delhi which knew only one ruthless way to crush women who live on their own in this city. Tuglak’s Delhi, Luyten’s Delhi can sap you of your mental energy. It was not easy in the mid 90s to find a house if you are a woman, working and moreover if you are a journalist having odd working hours extending well past midnight. That was the time when I first got a feeling of what it means to be single in a country like India. Integrity, educational qualification and intensity just don’t matter in the lanes and bylanes of Delhi when you drag yourself  looking for a roof for yourself. There were times I doubted the very existence of my background and my comfortable house. There were times when I used to walk on the neon-lit streets after finishing an evening shift at my office, I used to wonder is this the place where I am living. With my heart in my palm, my fear in my shoes, I did manage to carry on but today I feel in the absence of it all, I could have done much more. Am I being cynical? Am I being pessimistic?
But then what do you do when at 7 in the evening you are molested by two men in the so called posh South Delhi residential locality?  The trauma of the shocking incident was so deep that for almost two weeks, I stayed with a friend of mine and refused to come to my own house. It’s a trauma few men from Delhi would understand. In fact, I still remember a very close male  friend laughed like a maniac when  I told him about this incident. He found it too funny, definitely. I was too shocked to fathom his laughter but then sensitivity always come in small doses in a big city.
Nine years of my adult life in Delhi has given me a mixed buffet. The waft of that dish called memories still take me to a different world where ecstasty rubs its shoulders with pain and agony.  Delhi’s the place where I discoverd the soft texture of cottons (a tragedy indeed as I am from Orissa famous for its ikkat) in the emporiums on the Baba Kharak Singh road. Gurjari became my favourite hunting ground for getting lost in the wonderful world of colours, fabrics and designs. Delhi is the place where I discovered the irrestible first flush Darjeeling Tea in the Cottage Emporium in a delicately designed cloth bag from San Cha. On a lonely Sunday afternoon, Max Muller Bhavan opened the world of documentray films to me as I watched three documentaries without spending a single penny. When unfulfilled love ached my heart, Korean films at Siri Fort auditorium soothed my nerves. And of course Nirula’s and its 21 Love ice-cream will always leave a sweet taste in my mouth even after so many years. Delhi also taught me the value of money. It took great self-control to save for that skirt from Dastkar and a Chinese meal at Osaka in Green Park.And amidst all this, probably nothing will ever match the magical winter of  Delhi. Just to soak in the sun and spending hours  in rummaging through piles of T shirts, books, junk jewellery at CP on a winter afternoon elevated the soul. And most importantly, Delhi gave me the most important thing in my life : The experience of intense love. I would not have been what I am today as an individual (I am not talking about success, bank balance and the like) if I wouldn’t have lived through that experience in a city far away from my parents and my sisters. And yes, that’s why even today I get a lump in my throat when I read Vikram Seth’s poem ‘All you who sleep tonight…”   
It’s almost a decade since I left Delhi….Today when I go back, I find it difficult to identify with a place which was once home to me, a place where I got my first job and my first pay slip and a place where I first cooked a meal for myself, a place where I first hosted a party for my friends. Flyovers, Metro, shopping malls, speciality restaurants all have changed the landscpe of the place. But then as they say, big cities always go for big changes. Anyway, I was just another inconsequential dot on the map of the city.
Now, a common question I face from friends and acquiantances is that: Would not  I like to go back to Delhi? A tough question indeed for me. To be honest, a part of me wants to go back. Once again I would love to rough it out and find a place for myself there and walk the way I can. But a part of me doesn’t want . After all, Delhi is the place which gave me a broken heart.But Delhi also teaches you to move on in life. And it also teaches you to chase. I will chase somethingelse. In another city. With another set of dreams in my heart.


About Deepika Sahu

I earn my living through writing stories, editing what other people write (in simple terms I am a journalist). I dream of opening a cafeteria in the mountains, owning a beach home on the shores of Bay of Bengal... but right now, they all seem like wild dreams.. A gypsy at heart --- am passionate about life, music, words, cooking for people I love, soaking in the lashing rain and just looking at the changing colours of the sky.... And I am a great fan of the Indian Railways and I long to travel in First Class AC coupe across India.....with my man

2 responses to “Delhi is far… Dilli door hai

  1. rachit

    Its a treat for me to read posts woven in silk. I can relate with most of the point you talk on over here parallel in context to Lucknow, my native city. I’m surely coming back here to read more of such stupendous posts. 🙂

  2. hey… thanks.. definitely inspiring… i hope i would continue to weave stories…

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