Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chasing Childhood

Blast... I don’t know what it is about my Delhi visits! I have travelled to many places that are way more interesting, but every time I am in this city, I start itching to talk about the place - all the time wondering why, WHY this unholy fascination for the land of unholy goings-on!

Dil-li da Maamla hai

The first day of my week-long holiday, I had absolutely no intention of doing anything useful - or anything not-so-useful, for that matter. The Delhi heat and dust had started to get to me already, and all I really wanted to do was to compete with the bedspread on my Ma’s bed. I daresay I would have won, if it was not for the obscene amounts of time that Ananya, my 12-year old, was spending in front of the TV or laptop. As I watched her soak in some puerile stuff on SAB TV, her nose barely nanometres from the screen, I felt she was in serious danger of disappearing into the set, a la Mike Teavee in the Chocolate Factory - unless I did something drastic.

So I decided to concede defeat (albeit, temporarily) to the bedspread, and brave the scorching late afternoon heat of a Delhi summer to go all the way to  Shankar’s International Dolls’ museum at ITO, and top that up by traipsing down memory lane in Connaught Place. Well, to say that the museum was a tad disappointing would be an understatement. I actually recognized the faces of many of the dolls from visits during my childhood (due to technical difficulties, I will not go into exactly how long ago that was). But yes, that time they had seemed bright and alive, while now they appeared drab and desolate. That's understandable, naturally, but sprucing them up occasionally would not harm - honestly, some of them looked like the last cleaning and dusting they had seen was when they had been handed over to the museum personally by Shahjahan, or someone thereabouts...

Luckily, Ananya has a thing for dolls - of any kind, and some of the displays were rather exotic... but MOST importantly, the place was air-conditioned! So it was not an hour spent too badly at all!

Next stop – Connaught Place and Janpath.

I don’t have the foggiest why I start getting this warm glow over me when I am in this place. I don’t know why I should feel so tickled when I see the renovated Plaza theatre... I have no clue why it gives me a kick to find that ‘Prominent Tailors’, the tailor shop I used to frequent in my teens, still exists (for those of you born after 1980 - believe it or not, there actually was a time when a girl had to get her skirts and trousers stitched!) And I start doubting my own sanity when I find I still enjoy a soda and mutton chop at Nirula’s (so what if they were our favourite during the courting days – the current establishment is more washed up than Amisha Patel.)

But the best part of the day was the walk through Janpath... indulging, naturally, in the Standard Janpath Shopping Procedure:

1. Look into the wares of a roadside shop as you pass by, being VERY careful to get the right mix of interest and disdain in your eyes while you do it.
2. Casually examine one or two pieces that interest you, all the while carefully maintaining the aforementioned look.
3. Ask the price (Shift the interest-disdain mix from your eyes to your tone now).
4. Break out into derisive laughter as soon as the price is quoted, and counter it with your own price – which should be at MOST a quarter of the price quoted to you. The shop boy will counter this with his own even-more-derisive laughter – don’t be daunted.
5. After a few iterations of the previous step, say ‘Nahi chaiye, bhaiya’, and make an exaggerated show of walking off. This is the ‘make or break’ point.
6. If you lose this gamble, too bad. It’s likely the exact same thing will be available in at least 15 other shops on the same street, or at Sarojini Nagar, so you can try your luck in any of those. And if you win, gloat inwardly - planning how you will show your ‘catch’ off to your friends later.

Oh yes, we had loads of fun! But the real adventures that day had been elsewhere...

Delhi Daredevils

No, it’s not another IPL scandal that I am talking about. It’s the cycle-rickshaw pullers of Janakpuri.

Imagine the scenario. It’s the first day of my holiday, and I am off for what I hope will be a memorable outing with my daughter. Humming a happy tune, I amble up to a waiting cycle rickshaw, do the mandatory ‘Kya baat karte ho bhaiya, TEES?!! Metro station tak bees hi hotein hain, hum toh roz jaatein hai!” routine, and then settle in cosily on the seat - looking forward to a nice, long, unhurried ride to the Metro station.

Barely 100 metres into the ride, my hopes of a pleasant ride are dashed quite firmly. The rickshaw-walla, obviously suffering from the delusion that he was Michael Schumacher, started racing away like a maniac. And that too, on a road which someone seemed to have dug up and forgotten all about - a bed of spiky stones and dust. It was a ten-minute-long torture session - with me sitting there trying to divert myself by counting how many motor vehicles we overtook, while my insides felt as if someone was making a nice tossed salad with them.

The rickshaw-walla with the Schumacher Delusion...

And let me tell you, if you thought there could not be more than one rickshaw-puller in Janakpuri with the Schumacher syndrome, you would be wrong. If we got Schumacher on our onwards journey, on the way back it was Schumacher-With-a-Death-Wish. The guy actually rode (at top speed, naturally!) on the wrong side of the road - AGAINST the oncoming traffic! (For a stretch that seemed to me like 20 km, but was probably just 200 metres or so.)

Well, the bright side of these rides was that I returned home enlightened – with a hugely enhanced vocabulary of ma-behen expletives. You have to admit - there are some things in which Delhi never disappoints! 

And I think I finally have this fascination for Delhi kind of figured out. You remember those colourful 'goggles' sold by hawkers who used to move around selling cheap plastic toys once upon a time? The ones in which the 'lenses' were simply two pieces of brightly coloured translucent paper inserted into a cardpaper frame? See, the moment I get on to a plane/train to Delhi, I subconsciously put on one of those, and keep them on throughout my trip. Everything I see or do in Delhi is filtered through these - these psychedelic glasses named 'childhood'.

Yes, when I come to Delhi, it feels like coming home. Coming home to childhood.


  1. Delhi.....coming home to childhood.......loved it...too good .....nostalgic.....!!!!

  2. Nostalgic and at the same time enjoyed it so much Suchi - promise me you will never stop writing !!!

  3. Thanks, Meena and Vaishali!

    Vaishali, I'll tuck your comment safely away in a corner of my heart... to be retrieved to motivate me when I feel 'Why should I write? For whom should I write?', and as a pick-me-up when I am really down...

  4. Tussi Great ho Ji! Am reminded of how we literally got out of Delhi 25 years back but have still not got Delhi out of us. Talk of genetics - Mowgli who has had no such Delhi Belly is also in love with it now. All in all truly amazing how even a convoy of trailers fail to subdue Mumbai traffic - all for commerce; and yet 2 scootarists can bring Delhi traffic to a halt for hours - all for a good fight! I love the new breed of Tam/Bong/Golt/Mallu - punju's - clones who have outdone the originals. Would have loved something on our dear old DTC and also friendly next Door auntijies. Whatever else - Iwanna go back to Delhi and NOw!

    1. I thought I had written enough about DTC and neighbourhood auntijies in my earlier posts on Delhi - but obviously not!

      And about going back to Delhi - ANYTIME! You just need to say the word!

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