Monday, August 30, 2010

Boorish Bombay,Delectable Delhi !

For years, I refrained from the vicarious pleasures and indulgence that the internet affords. And it was for these very reasons- the seemingly pitiable pretence of seeking a sense of identity from others as also the depraved indolence at finding belongingness in the pale blue light of a little computer screen.

Perhaps I was mistaken. It started when I was finally relented to a spate of persuasions and somewhat reluctantly penned my first post on a blog that someone else created for me. At first, it felt foolish to share my rants with the world. Curiously, however, I realised that being compelled to put my words into black-and-white forced me to delve into the very recesses of my mind and memories, bringing me into proximity with the issue with an unmatched clarity.

And then there were the people who read my writings and shared their opinions-some were predictably superficial but for the better part, there were people who genuinely took interest. Getting to hear from them felt good and opened new dimensions of thought but more importantly, afforded solutions to the perplexities that had confounded me for ages.

In my random and itinerant wanderings across the virtual world, I have come upon many pieces of writing which, with the sheer fluidity of their temerity, would any day shame even the maestros of prose. But I have also come across some who, despite the beauty of their words, have fallen prey to misguided opinions!

One such piece of writing that I chanced upon recently was a piece on the ostensible superiority of Mumbai over Delhi. The author is very articulate and eloquent in her efforts to garner some compassion for Mumbai (or is it Bombay-I know, who cares!). And while we laud her valiant attempts in the face of such a daunting task, she also deserves every bit of our sympathy for even daring to undertake such a futile endeavour!

My tryst with Delhi began when I joined college at Delhi University. Having recently passed out of a school with a captive strength of just over 700 souls confined to an area of barely 150 acres, the enormity of Delhi was a cultural jolt all by itself. And beyond that came the manifestation of scores of things that so far had merely been abstract elements in our adolescent reflections. It was all there-the monuments, the glamour, the power, the opportunity. But I am sure you would find all of this, and even more, in any other of India’s bustling metropolitans. What then makes Delhi luna inter minores-the little moon among the stars?

Its inability to be pigeonholed into a stereotype. Or maybe its ability to escape the same. Mumbai is about money as Bangalore is about IT. Pune is for students as Kolkata is for leftist intellectuals. But try as hard as you may, you really can never define what Delhi stands for. It is the sum of many little elements, and the whole is definitely much more than a mere aggregation. Delhi is not a city; it is an animated entity that defies all attempts at definition. The only thing singular about Delhi is its plurality.

Beyond the teeming multitudes struggling to blend into this eclectic melting pot, Delhi offers assortment in almost every arena. It serves up all forms of food, from the delectable kababs at Nizamuddin to the zesty chuskis at South Extension. It has a legion of intelligentsia but not the sort who would pass up a Govinda movie. Its markets offer the most decadent in luxury yet leave scope for a Sunday jaunt at the Daryaganj flea market. Religious proclivities find an untrammelled expression in Delhi, allowing you to revel as much at the Ramlila as to delve into profound reflection at a Majlis. Even nature has been munificent in its bounties to the city, permitting the denizens to experience the agony as well as the magnificence of all the seasons-while the scorching summers force you to indulge in nimbu-paani and coconut jal, the fabled Delhi winter presents a burst of fauna in a wild assortment of hues, to gladden your heart as you hum your way to harmony at an open concert in Nehru park.

And then there are the unparalleled monuments. From the understated majesty of the Mughals at Puraani Dilli to the deliberate grandeur of the British in New Delhi, every nook in the road has a story to tell. Delhi houses the headquarters of all our armed forces and also plays host to the representations of all foreign countries in India. A drive across its roads is a delight, if not for the vistas sprinkled all about you, then even just for their names alone-Kautilya marg, Shanti path, Palam marg, Aurangzeb road, Janpath.

Which brings me to what is unarguably India’s most famous boulevard-Rajpath. Barely will the sheer majesty of the drive on Rajpath have subsided when Vijay Chowk will drop you onto Raisina Hill and set forth an imposing view of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. As you drive up to its gargantuan gates and turn around, the panorama that unfolds is seductive to say the least. Park awhile and sit on the ramparts of South Block and bask in the awe of being at the pulsating epicentre of India’s policy elite. And as you silently watch the Delhi traffic zoom across India Gate in the distance, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

For years, I refrained from the vicarious pleasures and indulgence that the internet affords. But today, do me a favour. Log on to Google, type “Mumbai” and then click the “images” link. Look at the images it throws up of India’s bustling financial capital and wonder how anyone can ever like any city in India better than Mumbai.
But before you log off, just for the heck of it, type in “Delhi” too and view the images that show up.
And smile.
For you have just seen the answer!


  1. some reply!! i especially liked the ending...

    btw, an answer to probably ur favourite ques-Delhi or Mumbai??

  2. @ Sidra-
    Takseen ko hum na royen,jo Zauq-e-nazar mile
    huraaen khuld mein teri,soorat magar mile.

    @Adarsh-i dont think i can incline favourably towards a city that has not been able to develop a consensus on its own name. So the answer,and i am sure u concur,is Delhi !

  3. I completely agree with the strong comparison that you have drawn among the two essential places in India. But since you have also spent a considerable time in Chandigarh, would you mind drawing a comparison between the national capital and the city beautiful in just a few lines or words. I would like to know your choice among the two, as I personally feel that Chandigarh is best only for the oldies.

  4. Chandigarh is beautiful,there can be no doubt about that-its verdant environs,its sweeping greens,the orderliness of planning-all combine to make it one of the most comfortable cities in the country. Add to that the ongoing inflow of capital and commerce and the city becomes as good as it gets,guaranteed to keep you happy.
    Unfortunately,happiness does not imply growth. And this is the one think about Chandigarh that strikes me as a fatal flaw-its smug attitude. The absence of any sense of urgency and the folly of confining its cultural domain largely to Punjab lend it a distinctly in-bred flavour.
    And that should be stifling for the young and old alike.

  5. Considering that I am the "very articulate and eloquent" author who was ostensibly trying to "garner some compassion for Mumbai", I feel the need to clarify: My post wasn't about a Mumbai (Bomaby) vs. Delhi (Dilli) fight. Yet, another eloquent, articulate author who is seemingly insecure about his city felt the need to challenge my views!

    I wonder what is it about these two cities that brings out the vehement dichotomy among us! There is this special element that makes people passionate about their one chosen city, never both. Mumbai is very definitely about money, and thank God for that! But it is also about it's people, about culture, religion, food, art, festivals, Bollywood, beaches, the local trains; and much more! Pigeonholed? Not any time soon. You just haven't peeled away enough layers. Try that just once, and you will come back for a deeper look.

    Busy, bustling, beautiful, bright, often bizarre, sometimes bashful, but boorish? Never!

  6. @Shyan-i agree with you and every city does indeed have its own unique charm and attractions.
    This post was not an exercise in antagonism,just trying to respond to a challenge!
    For more details on that,just read on 2 cms below this comment ! :)

  7. @Dee-so,the prodigal author returns finally !
    Didnt think it wud take you sooo long to come up with no reply !
    As for "Dilli", that isnt a moniker for Delhi-it is just a lilt in the dialect/accent/intonation.
    But Mumbai and Bombay are two very different names for the same city!
    N btw,did u try the google image search for the two cities-if you did,dnt tell me the images for Delhi didnt make u smile !! :) :)

  8. Actually, I did do the Google image search. I like the pictures of the people that make up the city more than images of stoic buildings. So, yes, it did make me smile!

  9. @Dee-the reasons may differ but the smile is what matters !
    And the smile is what leads us to the answer.
    Thanks for the admission !! :P

  10. Now now, you mustn't be so overconfident of your success that you err! Rest assured it were the Mumbai images made me smile. Crowded, crazed, cramped, its still my city :)

  11. @Dee-thanks for the 3 adjectives you have used for 'your' city !
    Cudnt have put it better myself !! :P

  12. Hah, but never have I disagreed on that! Its a part of its charm boyo!

    Btw, I see that you have read and enjoyed "Maximum City". Thats exactly what Mumbai is :)

  13. @Dee-thats just it !!
    Mumbai is "Maximum City",no doubt about it.
    But its just a city!

    Delhi,on the other hand,is a pulsating entity all its own !

    PS: "boyo" ?? ;)

  14. @Brijender, on an aside: what do your friends call you? Brij?

    And yes, boyo :)

  15. @ Dee-WHAT???
    They call me Mr. Brijender Singh !! :P

    N not boyo, even by the wildest stretch of anyone's imagination !

  16. @Mr. Brijender Singh: Now you have done it. Boyo it is. Though it contradicts what I wrote under my post, but then, I hadn't read this statement yet. Boyo :P

  17. @D-no probs !
    Boyo is any day better than a one-alphabet "D" !
    N it is but expected that you would be full of contradictions-even your fav city hasnt been able to decide on a name for itself !!
    I can understand ur plight !

  18. Contradictions, like change, provide the spice in my life! Wouldn't want it to unidirectional and drab!

    Btw, the name's Dilshad. People just massacre it too much for my liking, hence "Dee".

  19. Thanks Brijender for talking about Delhi in a way that will (hopefully) make me warm upto it :) I did have a very horrible experience in Delhi when travelling alone, with even army jawans brushing aginst my body and eve-teasing and everything. So somehow I have always hated Delhi :( Though I loved Old Delhi with its snaking galis and muhallas and the kabootar-wallahs and the old Muslim men telling me stories about their nawabi childhood!!!

  20. Did you re-post this? Obsessed, I tell you!

  21. I don't understand why are you so passionate about Dilli? Maybe, because you spent your student life here. I love both Mumbai and Delhi - both have its own charm and problems. I think choosing only one of those (and many more) is a typical attitude which says that 'only one can be the best'! I guess, there are many 'best' cities in our life - giving us joy and moments to remember.

  22. @Aativas: Definition of ‘Best’: Surpassing ALL others in excellence

    Therefore there can only be ONE ‘best’ :D

    The rest my co-author can address as the credits for this post go to him.