Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saadi Dilli

Few months back I got a chance to go to Jaipur. Was a short one as the trip was decided more on instinct rather than preplanning. I was getting a chance to see Jaipur after 12-15 years and had my own assumptions of how the Pink City would look like after such a long time. Boarding an AC Volvo was a good choice over driving unless you’ve a crazy passion of driving that is. For me driving around 70- kms in a day for last 5 years had totally killed the last bit of love that I had for it.

So, here I was in the so called Pink city. As the bus approached the final stop and I was looking around, my mind yelled “Hey, the Pink City is not so Pink anymore”. Except for the old architecture (like Johri bazaar, the old walled portion of the city, Hawa Mahal etc,), most of Jaipur has now transformed into an urban city with Malls, Branded outlets, Fashion stores and what not. Kudos to development of NH-8 as one of the best highways in the country!

I had gone to meet one of my college batchmates, who I must say made me feel royal with his hospitality during my visit. While we were sitting, chatting around and catching up on good old days, discussion revolved around a lot of topics like, places to visit in Jaipur, things I can buy or how we used to have fun during our MBA days and all.Most of my batchmates in MBA school were outsiders and weren’t local to Gurgaon.Towards the end though, the discussion took a turn to how Gurgaon should be rated as a city. The discussion finally came to a conclusion that the city can be judged as a crime city which is not safe for people.

So, here I was back in Delhi, going about my work with the same old shitty routine of parking my car at Metro station, traveling by Metro, coming back home after work etc. etc. Recently, some of my foreign counterparts in the company came to visit Delhi. They too had a short trip here and were eager to see the city as they had heard a lot about it with names like India Gate, Connnaught Place on their checklist. While we were having lunch together, some of my Delhi colleagues started talking about how beautiful Delhi is and its rich heritage.

While I was busy eating my lunch, Juan one of the guys from Peru, asked about my views on India as a country. I said “I don’t know”. He asked why I was saying that. I told him that I haven’t covered the rest of the states in the country except for a few so I don’t know, but I know a little about Delhi as I was born here and have resided here for past 27 years. Juan smiled and said (in broken English) “Yeah Delhi is beautiful, I have been here for past few days and I saw India Gate, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, they are beautiful.”

I further explained that Delhi has been dominated by a number of rulers throughout its past so you’re bound to see monuments like these. Juan pointed out that he was particularly impressed by Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb.

“When I look at them, I see old buildings. Good thing though is that they have been rated as heritage sites so that’s why they are still standing otherwise, god knows what would have happened to them.” I explained Juan that there are two point of views here, one is his, where in he is looking at Delhi from a tourist perspective, so he might get excited by these buildings and places, but a person like me who has been involved in chaotic side of the city on a daily basis, it’s just another building which I don’t even visit that often. I remembered then, when I was in Jaipur as a tourist. I was so excited to see Hawa Mahal but for my Jaipur friend, it was just another building.

I looked at Juan’s face, and I saw a line of disappointment appearing over his forehead. He further inquired, “So, what is your point of view about India in general and Delhi”.

“ Well, if it is really necessary to know, then I would say that I don’t have any point of view about India. There are still lots of places that I still haven’t visited or resided into and simply making my assumption about them based on what I read in newspapers, see in television channels, would be wrong on my part. Any city can only be understood when you spend a considerable amount of time there, go through its system in real. Now, what defines considerable amount of time is again a debatable point, as you might spend a whole lifetime and still might be trying to understand what the city is all about. All places around the world have their own pros and cons. It’s like if you had a good time while living in a city, you will say, Oh Man, this is the best place in the world. On any other day, if some robber snatches your gold chain from your neck and beats you to hell, you will judge the city as unsafe and categorize it as a bad. So, city itself for me isn’t good or bad, it’s your experience in the city is what makes it good or bad.“

Juan intervened ”So, what about Delhi then, as you said you have spent 27 years here, so can I consider that as considerable amount of time spent on basis of which you have a point of view which you would like to share?

I laughed and replied ”Well, I don’t know about the time period but, I definitely have a point of view about Delhi just like anyone else.”

“So, what is it tell me? Do you find the place to be beautiful as other of your colleagues are saying?”

“Well, they have their own reasons for their point of view and I respect that. As for me I won’t judge the city as the most beautiful in the world, as I have seen other places which are much more beautiful than delhi, I will also not call it as having a rich culture like no other. Well, to be honest, there are other places, civilizations too who have as old and rich culture as ours.

Delhi is full of ironies instead, and my point of view changes with my mood and experience in the city every day. For example, when I go to India Gate and eat an ice cream while staring at that magnificent architecture built by Britishers, I feel proud and happy, but when I travel via metro,at peak hours in the morning, and it becomes hard for me to breathe, I just start cursing Delhi for lack of infrastructure.

Juan stopped me ”You said ironies, what ironies are you talking about can you explain a bit.”

“Well I will give you an example. Right outside our office you see the metro station right?


“Try to board metro train from there and move towards Rajeev Chowk. In the middle of your travel, you will stop at a station called “Indraprastha” which in old times was the name that Delhi was known by.”

“Oh Ok”.

“Once you reach Indraprastha, try to look out the window, you will see a huge WHO(World Health Organization) building”

"Yeah I think I saw that, so what’s your point?"

“The point is although people see that huge building and are impressed by it, just behind that building, you will see the irony.”

“Which is ?”

“A bad smelling open sewer line with a huge slum cluster which is next to an organization which is trying to tackle health issues around the world but can’t get enough time to clean up its own backyard.”

Juan smiled “I understand what you’re trying to say. So, is it like Delhi for you is bad, you sound like you’re frustrated by the system here?”

“Well, to be honest, I am a bit frustrated by some of the things here, but I will still not say that Delhi is bad. I remember during my last visit to my brother’s home in Singapore, I was quite impressed by efficiency in the system there and I couldn’t resist myself of comparing it against Delhi's, which some might argue that it wouldn't be a right comparison.But, still whatever the case may be, I dunno why I missed Delhi at that time. May be it is that since most of my lifetime so far has been spent in Delhi rather than any other place, I guess I have gotten used to its chaotic life. May be in times to come, I might get to reside somewhere else where I might spend more time than what I have so far in Delhi and may be my point of view might change at that time.

As for Delhi as a city is concerned, the only thing that I have to say is that, yeah Delhi has a lot of shitty things, but there are some good sides to it as well. Like for example, while traveling in public you can touch on any topic to complete list of strangers and they will start talking to you like as if they have known you for long. Or maybe you will love to spend some time at Central park in Connaught place in the evening and just admire the environment for a change. Or maybe if you want to get a hold of some good international brands, that you'll find anywhere else ,you can simply pay visit Select City Walk mall and get them. “

"Well, my friend thanks for your inputs. May be next time I come to Delhi you can show me good sides of the city, will ya?

Alright bro, I will prepare my list then, Cheers! I was back in my cabin as clients had started to put havoc on my mailbox!!!


  1. hey PJ .. as always .. u attract readers by simplicity in ur writing, simple and true. Any one can link this with there daily life and conversations . gr8 .. keep writing

  2. I generally dont read much.. but to my surprise read this post completely, and not an inch of disinterest struck me even once!

    One obvious reason being that it talked about 'saadi dilli'..which is very close to my heart. No doubt the city is dealing with issues pertaining to infrastructure, mismanagement and public safety. But as you said, we being brought up there are used to the chaos and are so much part of it. I personally love the loud,frustrated,'ever in a hurry' culture that the city has inherited with time.

    You write well Pranjal! Pleasure reading.

  3. I cant agree more with you on this..
    "you might spent a whole lifetime and still might be trying to understand what the city is all about." Even after having been born and brought up in Delhi, i still feel it would take me a lot more to know what the real "soul" of Delhi is. But no matter what, Delhi is where the heart always is. Your blog's a good read!

  4. PJ . .love your writing dude :)

    If you want I can send a list of places to visit in Delhi for your next client visit :) ... being a part of a photography club in Delhi.. i have been to and I know lot of places which aren't seen by our eyes, which are habitual of looking at problems only in Delhi.

    for the last 6 months i am staying in bangalore, its a nice city but nothing compare to Saadi Delhi :)

    keep writing dude :)