This is the story of a 36-year old relationship with a city that has had many names in the past, but is known quite simply as Delhi today.
It is a city that has fascinated me for a long, long time.
It is a city that I have never lived in, but have visited it so many times that I have lost count.
And yet, it is a city, that I know very little about.
It is a city that sets off my respiratory allergies, if I stay for more than a day.
And yet, it is also a city that I want to live in for at least a year.
It is a city where diffused and clear memories and experiences are strung together in the same strand.
Like my first visit to Delhi in 1980.
I was about 9 at that time and in Delhi with my parents for a family function. I have vague memories of also visiting the Red Fort, the Qutub Minar, and other historical sites. But the memory of eating hot rasmalai at Chandni Chowk is the memory that surfaces first.
Then the trip in 1998, when I was deputed to attend a training programme in Delhi by my office. It was a very hectic 10 days and though I wanted to see beyond the training room, the packed schedule didn’t leave me with much time. Any free time that I got was devoted to ticking off items from the various shopping lists my colleagues and family members had thrust upon me. When I boarded the return train to Mumbai, I had 7 bags with me. Yes, 7 bags stuffed with things I can’t even remember today! The strongest memory I have from that trip is the paneer I was served for practically every meal. In other words, by the time I left, I didn’t want to see, eat or even hear the word paneer ever again. It took me 10 years to recover from that ‘paneer trauma’.
Delhi is also the city where I have made so many day trips from Mumbai for meetings that the details of individual trips have blurred and merged into one another. Except for one in 2013, where my meeting was fortuitously timed in such a way that I was actually able to visit a couple of the city’s best known landmarks — Humayun’s Tomb before the meeting and Lodi Gardens after the meeting.
2016 has been my best year with regard to Delhi for I had 2 memorable trips. The first was in May to see “The Everlasting Flame: An Exhibition on Zoroastrianism” and the sculpture gallery at the National Museum and also meet some friends. The second trip happened quite by chance and turned out to be my best Delhi trip to date, even though I was unwell all through. Three different friends showed me three different sides of Delhi — the street art at Khanna Market, a drive through Delhi where I got a feel of the spread of the city, and a visit to Begumpur Mosque.
This year, I revived the practice of sending New Year greeting cards to friends; bulk of those cards had a Delhi mailing address. I realised that Delhi is also a city where many of my friends are based — old friends, new friends, blogger friends, twitter friends. Friends who keep calling me back or inviting me to visit.
This post is my ‘New Year Card’ to Delhi with the hope that a 36-year old acquaintance becomes a friendship in 2017. And that like my friends, Delhi too invites me and lets me experience the city that everyone claims it is. And that’s my wish for 2017— a long leisurely trip to Delhi exploring its history and heritage, with lots of rasmalai thrown in. I’ll even put up with the paneer. I, however, draw the line at shopping. 😛
Delhi, are you listening?