Delhi: Words, life and tombs

I realized today morning that I woke up brimming with words and wordlessness. For the last month or so, the looming doom of a London winter had made me slightly quiet. Even if it isn’t that cold in London, I think the trip to India in September had left me India-sick.

In Delhi, the sights of life and history tend to invade me. This need to describe is not verbose. It’s merely this incredible urge to articulate. The words then tumble. As I look at the photographs of monuments, I am aware that even with all the words I know and might learn, to describe Delhi is still to be tongue tied.

I know of people who insist that they hate Delhi, or look sideways and tell you that Delhi is a village. But any city that has existed for as long as this city has harbours villages within itself. Not everyone moves in the same pace or the same direction. The city is lawless, but even in that chaos, the order of parochialism and patriarchy bend for those who understand it. This is not a city that manufactures. It trades. Not the sort of trading that perhaps Bombay does – but it trades in power, dreams and history. Delhi was never really about money, it was always about power and ownership. And now we battle over who owns which part of this city and which element of its history should be celebrated.

My friends from Bombay they tell me that Delhi cannot compare to it. I won’t argue. I find something to love about every city. In Delhi though, I never had to find it. It found me. It appeals to the most nomadic in me. At the tombs yesterday, we saw grown men play cricket in one quiet corner, and women with their hair open, laughing in the sun. Pigeons and dogs in corners of the ruins. The tombs – they are bustling with life.

Delhi had me babbling in my sleep. There are some cities that never sleep in the world. But there are others that sleep, sleep well actually and wake up yawning and stretchy the next day.

11 Comments

Filed under Cities, History and Monuments, India, Photographs

11 Responses to Delhi: Words, life and tombs

  1. vada nattu aathikkam ozhiga.

  2. Love ya for loving Delhi like you do :) I never justify my love for the city because I can’t – it is mostly beyond my capability to express my thoughts in words.

  3. One point often mentioned is: Delhi has a very bureaucratic ring around it, while Mumbai is more straightforward, besides being youthful and vibrant!

  4. km

    Dude, you are famous. I bought a copy of India Today before boarding a flight in India and had to nearly reach for the oxygen mask when I came across a quote by a certain “Neha Viswanathan” (in an article about blogging and social networking..)

    Don’t you send, like, really expensive gifts for your unfamous friends every Christmas?

  5. dipali

    Delhi in the winter sunshine- Delhi at its most beautiful.
    Growing up a stones throw from Lodhi tombs made one crave historical monuments wherever one went. In Kolkata now, an ancient, rather worn out city, but lovely old trees and its own, non-Delhi charm!

  6. Not sure if you have read it, but your descriptions somehow reminded me of Rushdie’s descriptions of Delhi in Midnight’s Children.

  7. Nilu: Poramai again?

    Firstrain: We try, we try.

    Pradeep: I don’t think these absolutes are actually true. I still find stereotypes have some element of genuineness to them – but sweeping generalizations? Delhi actually is rather lawless which should happen if it had a bureaucratic ring to it, no? And Bombay – is twisted with its exploitation, its poverty – it’s growing old in quarters – there are parts which are like little retirement kingdoms… :)

    km: Dude, you read India Today!?! :D

    Ahila: Thanks.

    dipali: All cities have their own charm isn’t it? I really don’t know that much about Calcutta, but of what I have heard – it sounds lovely in some doses. London sometimes satisfies my craving for old buildings, but I’ve noticed that London hardly has any “ruins”. Which of course is entirely different. Sigh!

    bhupinder: Been a while since I read that book. Didn’t realize if there was some echo of style/ imagery.

  8. Very nicely put.

    Visible history stays on in monuments left. It’s not merely the size, though size matters, that dictates their grandeur, but their individual history and the context of the period when they came into being.

    I can imagine the silence lurking in those places where people playing bring them to life. I suppose it’s got to do with the unhurried feel, like history stills time in its grasp.

    That’s where I feel Bombay lags behind, too few places where history can lie alongside playing with time in its grasp. There time simply rushes by.

  9. Hi again Neha,

    “The tombs – they are bustling with life.” I agree 100%. That’s definitely true of Lohdi Gardens. Evry time I went there were families picnicking, lovers canoodling, uniformed schoolchildren running around. And the markets… I spent my 12 days in India in Delhi and I don’t regret it a bit. The markets and the tombs are where this city comes alive. It probably helps that I love cities –I live in NY– but still…