Delhi Dilemma

One fine summer morning in 2006, as my dad and I were slowly moving through the traffic from IGI on our way to Sikkim House, I somehow felt an inexplicable exhilaration inside and it struck me then that this was the city I was destined to study in. As clichéd as it might sound, it was love at first sight!

After sweating it out in the unbearable humidity of Kolkata, here I was enjoying the  torturous heat of the capital and loving every bit of it (though I admit, the weather has  become my chief nemesis in the last five years).

Then and there I told my dad I was not goingback to Kolkata, even if it meant letting go off the entire fees that we had already paid at Xaviers! I have to say my parents are one of a kind; they Never say ‘No’ and are amazingly supportive  of everything I do. Who else  would agree to let me forgo a medicalseat and study English instead? I rebelled against the trend, my parents were encouraging and nowI know that this was the best  decision I could have ever taken in my life.

So back in Delhi, the entire admission process took like what seemed like eternity, but I never once lost heart. At the end of it all, I did not get the college I had wanted (I got Daulat Ram College) but eventually cameto love. After  three years of hustle and bustle, I finally made it to St. Stephen’s for my MA, but I still have a soft corner for my old college. Now after five years, I have come to realize that my adoration of the city has unconsciously metamorphosed into an odd love-hate   relationship. We are like lovers at a constant play of war and peace.

Whenever you come to a new place, there is always this skepticism, this uncertainty about whether the place is going to accept you, whether you are ever going to feel at home. Well, strangely, I never once got that feeling. I immediately felt so invited  here; so much so that at one point of time I was decided on settling back here. But, Delhi is a great charlatan. It has a way of tricking you into believing that it’s something else when it actually is not. Just when you’re convinced that this is a great place to be in, you are provoked into a rude shock. Then, you start feeling stifled and insecure and wish for time to fast forward to the day when you can catch the first flight back home. This is exactly what I experienced one day walking, or rather being mercilessly pushed back and forth, in the swarming streets of Old Delhi.

That the national capital is also the national crime capital is a known fact; especially for a woman, Delhi can easily turn out to be satanic. However, it is not just the crimes, but the sweltering heat of the city and its ruthless crowd has a way of getting into your nerves, of aggravating even the calmest of people. I have seen some change their angelic form and mutate into this insane maniac, which has lead me into some deep thinking many a times. The Jekyll and Hyde syndrome is a common phenomenon of the city.

But then again, just when you start to think that this is Pandemonium, Delhi exudes this soothing warmth which almost becomes addictive at times. As much as it brings out the worst  in you, is also helps you see and understand the side of you that you never thought existed. Maybe  it brings out the worst in order to make you realize the best. As unsafe as the city is for women, it also tends to empower us with a strong sense of independence. Like they say, if you have survived in Delhi, you can survive in any other place in the world. It presents us with such incredible opportunities, which are all up for sale, only if we are clever enough to grab them  at the right  moment. Delhi welcomes you and it welcomes your growth. You start falling in love  with Delhi all over again… (And yes, I certainly have forgiven Old Delhi, the place is too charming to be mad at for too long).

For most people, their opinion about Delhi lies at the two extreme sides of the spectrum. It is either total abhorrence or a total adoration. But there are also  others, like me, who still have not made up their minds. My relationship with the city runs at a deeper level and is much more complex. The history of Delhi itself has been one of vibrant contradictions. On the one hand, an uncalled for terrorist attack sends the city into a sick frenzy and on the other the relentless figure of Anna Hazare pulls the whole nation together from the capital. Ruled by everyone from the Hindus, to the Muslims and then the British, Delhi itself has had to face extremely complicated relationships of its own.Perhaps that explains the inconsistency. And now, when the end of the road is approaching for me, when the time has come to bid adieu to this city, I feel a need to resolve this issue for once and for all… but on second thoughts, I agree with myself that the charm of Delhi lies in its very polarity. No, I cannot resolve the issue, I cannot decide whether I love or hate this place. But I am bound to it for the rest of my life. Delhi has made an indelible space for itself in my heart.

Mridu Rai