For me, the idea of Delhi from a nondescript town in Assam had been small. It was bounded by red brick buildings of a campus, in the souls of what I considered the crème de la crème of India’s student life. But after a year in this glorious city, after countless kebabs in paranthe wali gali, I realize that there is so much more to it.
I moved to Delhi during August of the year 2017, very pleased with my admission in Miranda House, a college I had hoped would cater to my feminist wings. I encountered a bunch of people there, who amazingly tackled subtle forms of misogyny and sexism with grace and patience. I was proud to be a part of such an institution.
Come winter, me and my roommate went on the quintessential Delhi darshan: meandering through the crumbling lanes of Chandi Chowk, the jaded monuments of Majnu ka Tila, and the looming monuments of South Delhi. All were relics of the history of the city, all enshrined in glorious magnificence. Having a best friend as a roommate means that you get a partner to be insane with and to hang onto that insanity through the nitty-gritties of college life. It is a blessing to have someone so close to you, that you literally sleep on top of each other during winters (because we cannot afford a heater so we proudly rely on body heat). I saw dervishes in Nizamuddin’s famed dargah, cried in its sweltering heat, and let my teeth chatter during winters. I saw the ghosts of the past and the present.
Ghalib once wrote, “I asked my soul: What is Delhi? She replied: The world is the body and Delhi its life.” His words ring true in every cobblestone path, every blade of grass of the city. The world’s life beats in the streets and the blades of grass of Delhi. But it is the University campus that is where I come to roost— Hudson Lane, McDonald’s, Tom Uncle’s Maggi point, Kamla Nagar, Arts Fac, and Vishwavidyalya Metro Station became my daily vocabulary.
There are still great desires to be fulfilled with Delhi. My tryst with its ghosts and its denizens will continue. But I have come to realize that like Ghalib, my soul lies not just with the city but with its people. It lies with my roommate, my friends at the University, with DU Beat, the guards at my college, the rickshaw pullers from Vijay Nagar who know me well enough to know I won’t ride their rickshaws, the professors who seem to grow in stature, and in the fire that burns in every individual of the city. It lies with the ghosts of Edwin Lutyens, Nehru, and Ghalib. For the freshers stepping into the city, I only hope your experience is just as subliminal and yet sublime. That you realize that it is the people of the city who breathe life into what would have otherwise been a lifeless, insipid necropolis.
Feature Image Credits: NDTV