"We live in the world when we love it. "
~ Rabindranath Tagore


Delhi: Culture Shock

Romola Butalia cannot fathom quite what it is she loves about the capital of India, other than memories of the wondrous years of College.
Delhi is always something of a culture shock. I find I have always forgotten just how aggressive the city is. But old habits die hard, and after the first few minutes of acclimatizing, I am as ready as the next person to tackle the city head-on. Whether you arrive at the airport, the railway station or the inter-state bus stop, you are greeted by some tout selling something, by an auto-rickshaw or a taxi driver who will certainly take the longest route to your destination.
More on Delhi
An Overview

Kumaon Remembered
Manali- A Rendezvous

City of Djinns

Everyone talks too loudly, pushes too hard. On the streets, the traffic is indisciplined, the fumes choke you, the horns deafen you. And yet, the wide beautiful tree-lined roads, the roundabouts ablaze with the color of seasonal flowers, history rubbing shoulders with modernity...suddenly, it seems, I am glad to step back into the rhythm of the city, familiar and well-loved. I have often asked myself what is it about Delhi that I love.

I have had my pockets picked here so many times, I have lost count, and it has not happened anywhere else. I have had my lovely Tissot watch removed from my hand without being aware of it, the very first day I received it as a present. I have been pushed and shoved ...and it has not happened anywhere else. If there is any way to be cheated, I have been cheated some new innovative way in Delhi. It is the only city in India where I have felt threatened and victimised. And yet I love the city. Why?

Surely not because it is the capital of India and the seat of government bickers here, aided by a monolithic bureaucracy. Yet, if I remember Delhi, I am aware that the slippery reins of rule are exercised here...and the grandeur of India's capital is never so much in display as during the beating of the retreat every year after Republic Day. The crowded chowks of old Delhi, the bazaars in the Red Fort area...has anything changed very much in the Indian psyche over the centuries?

I certainly remember Delhi University...as a place where there was intellectual freedom and personal space. The memories have lasted a lifetime. The friendships still remain through the decades of time and the separate lives. Have college years got anything at all to do with the city in which they happen to be lived? In Delhi University I was not aware of the city of Delhi.

What can possibly endear the city to an outsider, unless it is to see the face of India that is put on public display: a glimpse at the past and a glimmer of the future.

Yet Delhi calls me and embraces me warmly, makes me feel at home, though I have been an outsider here many years. As one friend wrote recently, "Why are you in Mumbai when all your friends are in Delhi?" Good question. Do we actually choose where we live? And if we did, what would be the criteria of choice? Who would then CHOOSE to live in Delhi? Would I ?

Home | Back | Top | Feedback

Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.