Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Surviving a Delhite





Courtesy - Google Images

I share a love-hate relationship with Delhi. A Bengali who has seen the capital since her nappy days, I have been witness to the slow but bumpy transformation of this outpost for displaced Punjabis to a teeming megapolis of millions. Home to some of the biggest markets in Asia, a city where multinational opulence rubs shoulders with decaying Mughal splendour, the stately Shantipath that fills you with awe, wide avenues lined with trees older than your granddad’s memory, the beautiful bungalows – it’s tough not to fall in love with Delhi. What I simply abhor is the attitude its populace never tires of flaunting.

The Delhite is a species devoid of manners, full of self-importance and lacking empathy.

Blame the extreme weather, its fast paced tempo and its law resistant neighbours: there’s that indefinable thing about Delhi that changes you. If you are genteel, soft-spoken, law-abiding – may God help you. The astounding variety of punishments good manners can fetch you in this city is astounding. Your toes will get trampled. If you are in a queue it will magically keep getting longer in the front. If you take the Metro, someone will invariably shove her well fed ass in the sliver of space next to yours and literally push you off the seat. If you are brave enough to drive, you will be honked at incessantly even at traffic lights. If you are stupid enough to walk, someone will either try to run you over or kidnap you for fun.

It’s as if your mere existence is an irritation to many.

In Delhi it’s very important to know who your Dad is. If you are driving within speed limits and it is unacceptable to the fella driving behind, he will come up to you and ask – tere baap ki sadak hai kya(is this your Dad’s road)? If he’s in a better mood, he might ask you the profoundest question of all – Pataa hai main kaun hoon? (Do you know who I am?)

It helps if your Dad is an important government official. It spares you the agony of standing in queues at 15 different counters and when you finally see light at the end of the tunnel (read the clerk), you will be turned back because your bank statements for the last 25 years were not submitted in triplicate. Either sarkari naukri makes you ugly or the sarkar is benevolent towards the looks-challenged, but the fact is, you will find some of the ugliest specimens working for the government. Coupled with an attitude to match, a visit to a government office is like a trip to hell.

Standing in a serpentine queue, with the probability of the smelliest man standing right next to you, the fan on the ceiling moving at a speed which will give a snail a complex, only to come face to face with a gormint clerk, whose main mission in life is to make you realize that life is not a bed of roses.

It certainly helps if your Dad or even an uncle related to you by satellite is a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Animal Husbandry. Chairs appear magically, files move at lightning speed and if you are lucky enough you get tea in china cups that’s only three years old.
 

Delhi also brings out the Olympian in you. One has to be the faster, higher and stronger to survive. Years of scarcity, rationing and reservations have conditioned us to believe that if we don’t push to get there first, things will run out. Seats, admissions, tickets, space, opportunities or even food laid out at the buffet table makes us starts jostling as if our life depends on it.

Any other vermin encroaching upon our space deserves to be pushed off from the face of Earth.

In movie halls, people refuse to switch off their phones and insist on conducting business negotiations just when the heroine’s mother is about to die. Our gestures reek of impatience and we have long deemed simple sorry and thank-you’s as unnecessary. All we need is a small trigger to burst into a string of profanities.

I’d hate to think that there’s nothing right with a Delhite. In fact a Dilliwala is all about dil - harsh but large hearted, ready to beat all odds with his never-die spirit, enterprising despite government apathy and a stifling bureaucracy – we have learnt to survive on jugaad. We shop in swanky malls in our Calvin Kleins, check out the latest accessories at the DKNY store, yet uninterrupted supply of electricity and water remain a dream for us. We buy mammoth generators to counter load shedding, install heavy duty water pumps to tide over Jal Boards’ ineptitude and bribe our way through sarakari ennui. We Delhites always manage to find a way out of misery.

Everything about us is larger than life – our over the top celebrations, our Swarovski studded handbags, Chunnu ki Mummy’s diamond necklace and his Daddy’s sedan. If Chunni ki Mummy can drive you up the wall with her “kitne ka liya” queries, she will also make sure your kid is taken care of if you are late from office. Mr Sharma may quarrel with you over parking space but will knock at your door on Diwali night with a mammoth mithai dabba in his hand.

Loathe him, love him but you simply can’t dismiss him. After all it’s the spirit of a Delhi-wala that keeps the city alive.

This post is now on... IBNLive

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103 comments:

  1. a very well expressed piece purba....as a fellow bengali who's a pucca delhiite(born bred educated working and finally married in this city)...i can totally see myself and my feelings in this words.....

    yes, delhi does make one feel like pulling out your hair once in a while....but its a great city to live in..dilli sach much dil valo ki hai :) isme sirf bade dilwale hi survive kar payenge :P

    http://sushmita-smile.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delhi makes you a Royal Bengal Tigress :-)

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  2. Good One Purba and I guess its not just Delhi...The state of government offices and the biased treatment metted out is all over India...atleast in all the cities!! If one scores 8 another probably would be at 8.5 Otherwise they are all the same!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the swelling numbers that makes us insecure and brings out the worst in us.

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    2. Excellent painting with words..loved it..i feel off my chair...at the gormint clerk....whose main mission is to...lol..loved it.

      Twitter @nlnarayan

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  3. Sure there are many things that stink... but you have summed it up beautifully that despite all odds against delhiwalas the spirit never dies as they can find jugad for anything and everything:)

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  4. Solah anne sach! As a born-in-Delhi and brought up all over the country person, the city never fails to amaze me with its arrogance and melt me with its cheery we-are-in-this-together spirit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And despite it's arrogance it continues to be my favourite city!

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  5. A beautiful piece Di. As a 'foreigner' (Bangladeshi born, raised in Australia) I fell in love with Delhi within the first few days of visiting the place. I've travelled all over the world, but few cities have the inherent and genuine charm Delhi does. Another thing I found fascinating was just how blended the old and the new are. I spent a day in Old Delhi and then half a day out at Saket Malls and literally felt like I wasn't in the same city. The place isn't defined like that...Delhi is 'cosmopolitan' in the true sense. I may not have much credibility as I haven't ever lived there BUT it's one city I just KNOW I will be coming back to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And you came in the sweltering heat! I am glad, you had such a good time in the city :-)

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  6. One can hate or love but cannot ignore Delhi! The only thing that one at times feel amiss are the basic decency and lack of manners which tests the patience most of the times!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delhi makes you aggressive. Be soft and there are scores waiting to trample on you.

      Delete
  7. well written... i guess the negative points you have mentioned are common in all large cities of populous and corrupt countries like ours !! Do read a similar post I had written on how it can suck to live in a metro like delhi! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Read your new post and commented on it.

      Delete
  8. Exactly!!!! This love hate relationship rocks! :)
    You can't take the 'Dil' out of the Dilliwala.

    ReplyDelete
  9. If there are buttons that could be pressed to make the population of a city invisible and they are pressed for Delhi, it will be a beautiful place to live. Otherwise, the place is only a salad of abuses, smells and honks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The world salad is making me feel diarrheal!

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  10. An entertaining post and also enlightening post for us non-Delhites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope, I didn't scare you off!

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  11. Been to Delhi...It also helped cos I dint know Hindi then (or now)...some of the gaalis are not understood - while driving or while standing in queues :D I loved the last para. That ought to be true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! How did you manage to survive Delhi?

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  12. Oh my goodness Purba, so well written...
    I have so much got used to peaceful life in Europe that reading about the cities from the country I come from makes my heart rate increase.
    I can stop thinking about cardiac excercises for few days now that I read this article. My heart rate is increasing (At the same time I am thinking about the dialogue by my husband -Bhavana, you cannot do anything about the "change" happening in our city)
    The same thing is happening in Bangalore. It was called the city of lakes and these days it is hard to find those many lakes I have got used to when I was a kid. We had more than 600- 700 lakes..
    Well,. *taking a deep breath* it is a very good writing.. going to share..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Went to Bangalore after nearly two decades and was shocked to see the transformation..So much traffic, the unbearable pollution!

      Delete
  13. Haye Ram, pehle toh Ode to Gurgaanwaan likhna tha na? Yahan kya nahi hai - bangla, gaadi, shaan-o-shaukat. Aur haan, hamare paas Mall bhi hai!

    hehheh...Delhiteful. :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Likha naa, Ugly side of Gurgaon!

      Delete
  14. oh yes my dad was a high govt official, I could have had all the fun in delhi eshhhhhhhhhhhh missed a chance ..

    but i have had lots of good times in delhi ...

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's something for everyone in Delhi.

      Delete
  15. A good read Purba.

    Couple of years ago, i was travelling from Dubai to Blore and flight mein ek Dilli waale dilwaale uncle they..poori journey mein race par hi lagey they like wanting to be the first one to board the flight, wanting to be the first one to fill the hat rack with his large bag, loo jaaney ki jaldi just before and soon after the meals were served,and ofcourse he was the first one to take off the seat belt, switch on the mobile phone and alight from the aircraft upon landing! The race further continued at the immigration desk and finally at the luggage collection belt too. He was so impatient to collect his luggage and was running from one side of the belt to other all the while doing dhakkam dhakka.He was a good enetertainment for his fellow travellers. Then there was an old lady travelling by herself in the same flight and this dilli waale dilwale uncle was the one who cared to help her collect her luggage and even got her a trolley leaving all the rest of us cynical bods amazed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! his rough demeanor might put you off but he makes it up with a heart that beats at the right place.

      Delete
  16. A wonderful read...Delhi is my favourite city in India...As the saying goes..Love it or Hate it..but cannot ignore it..that's what Delhi is all about....:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a beautiful city - a rich mix of culture and heritage.

      Delete
  17. Oh yes, if you have survived in Delhi, you can survive anywhere in the world. Living in Delhi, even for a brief period, should be counted as a plus point in job resume :-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ha ha, so true. I have been around quite sometime, and these things seem so much normal to me. Of course, some dumb fellow will park the car right across yours so that you cannot take yours out. Say something, and your windshield may be broken in the next instant! Gruff, Rude, Self centred, Showbiz oriented yet all so common... and one gets moulded accordingly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Delhi makes you gruff and no-nonsense.

      And Parking is another nightmare. Nobody spares a thought for others.

      Delete
  19. Purba,

    Mostly a true picture. I would surely like to know what incident caused this. Do write that, please.

    Take care

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Someone pushed my daughter from behind, while she was boarding the Metro. Her foot got lodged in the gap and she got injured.

      Delete
    2. Purba,

      Hope not serious. How is she now? Hope she could give her mindful to that XXXXXXX.

      Take care

      Delete
  20. In Delhi,if you are not somebody then you are definitely a 'nobody'.In Mumbai all hell breaks loose if one tries to flaunt his connections in public.We are only worried about time and traffic, rest is immaterial.
    BTW,how was Kolkata ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kolkata was great as usual. Stuck in a time warp, the city has an endearing quality about it.

      Delete
  21. The Delhi Post. :)

    For some reason, I've been apprehensive about Delhi. From calling it Daahli, to using the "mere paas pistol hai" lines, I've said it all. Cub and I have had minor altercations on this subject too, but I'm willing to change my mind.

    Maybe I should really go and understand what the fuss is all about :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's vibrant, fun and there's so much to do in Delhi. Just make sure you come in Winters.

      Delete
  22. I haven’t had much of an encounter with a Delhite, but I guess if ever I have one or if I want to relate to one, this post of yours would definitely come to my mind. You brought out the heart, soul and spirit of a Delhiite beautifully with your characteristic humor. Be it for the cordial genialities or the harsh realities – Delhi is unique in its own way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, you interact with a Delhite through her blog :-)

      Delete
  23. Hey....we are the cool ones. We drive Oddies and Mersadese. Main kiya, the other cities are just jealous of us, ji.
    We are loud, love our drinks and a bit of fight now and then. If you think about it, we are just like the village of indomitable Gauls.
    P.S. I hope you know who I am?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we are the Gauls, I wonder who the Romans are? Mumbaikars?

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  24. Appreciate your blog on the subject . I have observed that generally what you've described as the behaviour of people in Delhi applies to most of the people of North India. I'm not sure why but I have noticed they dont want to impose self discipline or follow the so called public manners . The basic tendency is to be one-up on the others . Just like any public activity is a war to e won ..that is we should win over the others ...we should be the first . Am not sure why but I suspect it has to do with survival of the fittest

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are a nation law-breakers. Yet we"ll continue to crib about a system that doesn't work.

      Delete
  25. Yes, yes, yes! As a Mumbaiite, Delhi was the complete opposite to me. In my frequent visits to the city, the architecture, the gardens, the Metro all enthralled me. The nosey, show-off culture left a lot to be desired. Being the political capital, connections are thrown in your face. Foodwise, Dilli is heaven! And Punjabis, nice ones still exist in Punjab ;-). As a single girl, who traveled on official visits to Delhi, it was harrowing and daunting. I don't have good yaadein of Delhi. That was changed last year when I visited the city with family for my brother's wedding. It seemed much more welcoming! Like it is said, we only hate what is truly our own, and I can see your love for Delhi shine through in the post despite its shortcomings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delhi is not exactly kind to single women. But after a while, you develop your own defense tactics :-)

      Delete
  26. Haha, AWESOME!

    I moved to Gurgaon beacuse of my job about a year back and initially, I really considered myself a misfit.
    They would shove, push, trample,scorn and then run (literally, run) from the blue line station to the yellow line (on Rajiv Chowk)and, I was left wondering if there was an invisible fire they were running from!

    All this while, I thought it was my "small-town" mindset!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And soon you"ll be one of us. Running as if your life depended on it :-)

      Delete
  27. A wonderful read, full of satire and humour. Oh, how we hate and love Delhi. :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Kitne ka liya...really gets my goat. Try to evade the topic but the persuasive Delhitie will force you to divulge details.

    It sure is a Love Hate relationship with saddi Delhi.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thankfully in Gurgaon, no one bothers!

      Delete
  29. Thank you for sharing.
    My parents lived there for a while before we moved to Hyderabad and been here ever since.
    Please come to Hyderabad. You might love Hyderabad but beware we are laid back :)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have yet to visit Hyderabad. Someday I will.

      Delete
  30. Delhi maybe a babucracy and bend when you know the right contacts, but the babus reign supreme in Mumbai too when it comes to the right amount of money! . Once you start driving, I find every city in India equally ill-mannered, be it in honking while driving on the wrong side or cutting lanes or flouting any rule that exists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Government offices epitomize hell on Earth.

      Delete
  31. Purba, though I enjoyed reading this post, but still am not happy at the end.

    I don't know why people pull down Delhi's name even when such bad things happen almost everywhere!!

    You talk about traffic, I would sincerely invite you to Mumbai and then ask - Say what!?

    You talk about being a big daddy's child, would send you to any metropolitan city and then ask you - could you survive?

    I don't agree to what you have said, but it is not ONLY DELHI thing, this you find everywhere!

    I have seen Mumbai people crying loud against goons in Delhi. have you ever sat in Rickshaw in Mumbai? I'll say every rickshaw-wala is a goon here. (please note I am not trying to show-down Mumbai) I ONLY intend to say - it is everywhere boss!!

    Every city has it's own charm and I can confidently say that you won't find people as big-hearted as punjabis in this whole world. people as soft-spoken as Kashmiris and Lucknowis, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have encountered auto-rikshaw drivers in Bangalore, they are no better.

      Kolkata on a average is far more friendly than Delhi.

      But agree when you say bad elements exist everywhere.

      Delete
  32. Say what you must.But,Delhi has a character of its own.
    Men,all of us are not bad

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Certainly, exceptions exist. Thank God, for that.

      Delete
  33. I am reminded of the Delhi dialouge..'Do you know who I am?' :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because if he doesn't, you are treated like shit.

      Delete
  34. Sheesh! Couldn't have agreed more with you, Purba. I wonder how many share this love-hate relationship with Delhi. This brought back certain memories of my travel experiences here. Cool! :D

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  35. I am glad you wound up the post as you did-because i simply LOVE Delhi!!

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  36. The nosiness irks me no end and the arrogance gets to me too. The city grows on you but it is hard to love Delhi unless you are a diehard Delhiite. you dear girl, obviously are one :)

    ReplyDelete
  37. superb post...now that Iam travelling to delhi often for my project, i could relate to every line here...

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  38. Super! Thank God, i don't live there. The occasional trips are horrible enough to loathe it:P

    ReplyDelete
  39. Our City provides embraces everyone. If it had not been for Delhi, Anna and Ramdev and the likes would not have gained the stage show they have received.

    Nice post, as usual :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Delhi has evolved over the years. It's far more cosmopolitan in it's outlook now.

      Delete
  40. I never been delhi so far..though planning since long.
    http://chitranavada.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Plan a trip in winter. That's when the city comes to life.

      Delete
  41. Am married to a delhizen, and still coming to terms with it 12 years later - and much of what you wrote in there was like you opened a window inside of my brains and copied the stuff!! Loved every word, every expression, every image you've protrayed here!! Kudos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aha! love Delhi, hate it but you just can't ignore it.

      Delete
  42. I liked ur post, even though I don't agree with the idea that a city defines its people. I think we are individuals and we behave the same where ever we are. Were u a different person in Bengal than ur in Delhi or was I different in India than I am in US now? I don't think so...if i liked honking on the streets and adding "ji" at the end of every sentence, it would remain the same. If a Delhi-ite is "devoid of manners" in Delhi, u thing Lucknow will change him! NO
    City is just a place we live in...doesn't integrate within our personalities..

    Or may be I am just a little shallow! :)

    I think our country needs to lose such allegiances with respective cities and states in the wake of anti-north Indian attacks in Mumbai and anti-NE Indian attacks in the South!

    However, ur description of Delhi was superb...picture (im)perfect as u wanted it! :) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like it or not, we love to associate a city with it's peculiar traits.

      If Lucknow is all about Tehzeeb, Kolkata is about laid-back addas and Mumbai is the busy cosmopolitan.

      Of course with large scale migrations happening, we no longer know what typical is.

      Delete
  43. never been to delhi...but have heard similar story about Delhiites all the time. Makes me wonder whether there is such a thing as a city being defined by its people?:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can add gloss to a city but you can never take away its core.

      Delete
  44. I cannot point finger to a single point and say, no, there you have it all wrong. I am learning my lessons, the hard way or the soft one, but yes, I am also trying to develop immunity to it. Not sure if I will succeed, or if I was already a hopeless case, but I'll keep it a secret if I do make it. Delhi is dangerous :D

    Cheers,
    Blasphemous Aesthete

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The city changes you. To survive, you have to assume an aggressive stance.

      Delete
  45. Bangalore is also not too far behind Delhi. Perhaps you dont get kidnapped for fun here, and the people are a little more polite than Delhites, but everything else holds true for Bangalore also. What I like about Delhi is people are fun-loving and they live their life king-size. Bangalore is a graveyard compared to Delhi. No offense meant, dear bangaloreans!!

    ReplyDelete
  46. euphemism at its best ma'm .. !

    one thing i never understood why delhites feel so proud about themselves when they know that they haven't done anything great as such and are just like any other person ?

    regards,
    rahul

    ReplyDelete
  47. Very well written. I had tough times in Delhi for the brief periods that I was there as a student, but, there are parts I love and miss.

    Ramya

    www.wardrobemenu.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep! love its markets, the cultural dos, India habitat centre, the beautiful monuments....

      Delete
  48. Hard hitting and yet rib tickling! I am visiting Delhi this November.Hope I don't get jostled or pushed away :P

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  49. Hey Purba,
    This was a very well written post. However, as a third generation delhite, I strongly disagree with a lot of things you mentioned about us (Yes, I said us, haha). Delhites may come across as cocky at first, but we will make the best friends you will ever find. All it takes is to be a little street smart and living in Delhi can be so much fun! Like every city in the world, Delhi has it's problems, but at the end of the day it's still a very charming and fun city... Anyhoo, thanks for taking time and writing about Delhi :)

    Sowm
    http://sowmyatta.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The city may get on my nerves at times, but its my home, always will be.

      Delete
  50. What a post, Purba! I was smiling to myself as I read about the love-hate relationship with Delhi. When I came from Kerala to Delhi, it was a real culture shock and people kept telling me, "Good people get taken for a ride in Delhi." Time and again they are proved right. At least from my experience in Delhi so far.

    Take a bow esp for these points you raised:

    1. It helps if your Dad is an important government official.
    2. In movie halls, people refuse to switch off their phones and insist on conducting business negotiations just when the heroine’s mother is about to die.
    3. Everything about us is larger than life – our over the top celebrations, our Swarovski studded handbags, Chunnu ki Mummy’s diamond necklace and his Daddy’s sedan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You will toughen up! Delhi will make sure you do :-)

      Delete

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