‘Make your camera ready.’
Uncle said, sitting in the driving seat of that ’97 model Ambassador. I was in a day dream,thinking about my past few hours,how I reached there. Delhi, my most favorite destination, where I always wished to come.The only part I hated till then was the four hour journey by air. I always hated airplanes. Such a boring way to travel; with its sleepy but non sleepy atmosphere. But thanks to Indigo flights. From Cochin to Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad, the girls were gorgeous, going about in their perfect outfits. But from there on, they were not much pleasure to my eyes. At last, after four hours, I’m at Indira Gandhi International Airport Domestic Terminal, Delhi.
The person who’s driving the ambassador is my father’s friend, Sree Uncle, Liaison officer of Mathrubhumi newspaper for the past 18 years in Delhi. He increased the cooling of the AC. I switched to my companion, my Nikon p520, took two three snaps. It’s hot outside. I closed the glass. I then turned on the conversation.’Why are you still using an Ambassador? That too in a city like Delhi?‘ My doubt was genuine because in Kerala it is hard for us to get an ambassador even as a taxi. ‘Ambassadors are still used by dignitaries in Delhi. People have a certain respect for it when they see this on the road ‘, Uncle replied. Strange!
I just drifted back to my childhood. When I was 8 or 9, I touched a car for the first time, that too when my cousin sister’s fiance came in that. I had run to the car when nobody was there and I touched the bumper. The feel of that steel body. Now it feels funny when I ask someone that why they were still using that car. It was like a superstar for me in my childhood. It was the only car seen on the roads and the only other car we knew was a Contessa, which was owned by my school mate. We always saw it in his car porch whenever our auto-rikshaw reached his house to pick him up, on the way to school. Years passed and now every house owns a car,sometimes two. You can scarce find boys over the age of eighteen who have never driven a car. All have experienced the thrill of driving at least once. I too drive, being a girl.
‘Here it comes. GyarahMoorthiyaan. We will turn left, so you be ready to capture. We can’t slow down there‘, Uncle said. I looked forward through the front glass. GyarahMoorthiyan, the eleven statues which represents the Salt Sathyagraha. It was Gandhiji who positioned the first and got another ten behind him. I had seen its pictures in many places. Now, it was right in front of my eyes. I clicked two three times on my camera. We turned left. ‘To our right, it’s the Mughal garden of the RashtrapathiBhavan. But we can’t see it‘, Uncle said. I looked right and saw only a high compound wall. We slowed down at a signal. I saw a name board that read ‘DhawlaKuan’. It means ‘The White Well’. What a name!
Someone knocked on our glass door. It was a middle aged man who sells toys. He showed us aeroplanes and seeing that my niece started yelling,
‘It’s a plane.‘
My sister nodded. He went back and reached the footpath where more people like him were waiting. They were under the shade of a tree. I wondered how people are striving to live. I saw a kid sleeping under the same shade, may be this was his father. Life is different for each and everyone but I am sure he is happy in that shade, happier than us. Signal turned green. We passed through so many roads. Roads named after so many leaders of the Independence struggle.
Delhi is clean. I should say cleaner than most of the places. It looks the same as seen in the movie ‘Rang de basanti’. The one movie which has cemented its place in my list of favorites.
There we entered to the Galli. The typical Delhi Galli.
‘This is Paharganj.‘
I can’t find a street, all I see is a crowd. People everywhere. I saw a load of sand unloaded on the road itself and people are driving through it easily. The street is filled with people and a lots of shops. I am not sure that I can call that a shop, but it is a shop. I noticed a Subway outlet in the corner. That too, in this busy street. It was a struggle to drive through these streets. It took ten minutes to move ahead a hundred meters or so. I found a kite flying in the sky. I searched for the owner. Someone is flying it from the terrace. Tomorrow is Raksha bandhan, I remembered. The day for our brother, to tie the Rakhi on their hand, a promise to hold on forever.
‘Is this street always busy like this?’ I asked Uncle.
‘No, tomorrow is Rakshabandhan and a Sunday too. This road goes straight to the Delhi railway station, just about 500 meters from here.‘
We turned right. I saw a red building–Imperial, the name board proclaimed. I noticed the posters on the building and came to a conclusion that it was a theatre, an old ruin of a theatre which plays low grade movies now.
Our car came to a halt at the Hotel Pearl Plaza. I took the camera and my back pack and stepped out. I found many kites flying over the sky, children are running from one terrace to the other. That’s one of the differences of the Delhi dwellings. One building is connected to the other and back there in Kerala, everyone has a big plot of land and a big luxurious house. I was keen to hear a ‘Kai Po Che’ from someone but the kites kept on flying. I entered the hotel and climbed the steps. I got into the room, with two beds. We all found that the room and facilities were inconvenient and decided to shift to another well conditioned room. So we climbed another two floors to a fine room and settled down.
The plan was to just roam around Delhi and come back after dinner. We walked through the street. In the night, the streets are a little less occupied. I can see lights everywhere and so many food stalls on the street. We turned a block and reached the metro rail station, R.K Station-Ramakrishna Mission Station. I saw two huge queues in front of the ticket counter and I joined the queue. I saw hundreds of people getting into the station after the luggage check. I took tickets for 5 people, 8 rupee each. I scratched the coin over the door after my luggage was checked and entered the station. It is platform No:1 to which we have to go. We found the sign board and reached the platform. R.K station is a less populated station I guess because whenever I saw a metro station in TV it’s always crowded and this was a peak time. We waited at the station. I saw the signal board there. It will take one more minute for the train to reach us. In that one minute, I thought of the role the metro was playing in helping Delhi to regulate its traffic.
From the evening drive, I came to the realization that Delhi had no such traffic regulations and people always drive rash there. Every car, be it a BMW or Benz or any other, have a bump and crack over it and undoubtedly I can say they have not seen water for a year. 80% of workers in Delhi is using metro as their main medium of transport. With a meagre expense of 8 rupees, one could go anywhere or with 120 rupees you can a get a card which could be used a whole day.
Delhi consists of the Old Delhi, New Delhi and Noida. The metro connects these parts and they are still developing. I would appreciate how people are co-operating to the work of this metro in such a busy city and I am utterly ashamed of the people in Kerala on how they disturb DMRC in Kochi metro rail project.
Three trains passed by. We didn’t get into any seeing that it was packed. My mother was afraid of the short one minute stop and the automatic doors. She worried whether we’ll be able to get down at the right station. We got in to the fourth train. Fully air conditioned, crowded. We stayed together and planned to get down at the next station, Rajiv Chowk. The announcement in the train was giving details about the stations and time to reach there. In no time, we reached Rajiv Chowk. I stepped down. This is Delhi metro, I saw a big crowd which is drifting into the train from which we had gotten off. I saw a fully facilitated railway station with CCD, Pizza Hut outlets and people everywhere. It was an underground station. We found the way out and reached one of the beautiful streets of Delhi. A circular central park surrounded by typical looking buildings with peculiar names. All the buildings were white in color and had stores of all international brands. The full moon smiled at me. I saw my niece running all around, not allowing anyone to catch her. She pointed on the big flag in the centre of the Central Park and started singing ‘bharatha baghya vidhatha‘. It was a big huge flag and it fluttered against the night sky. The flag post must be at least 30 meters high. I found street dogs everywhere, dirty and skinny, roaming all around. We got back to the train and reached back to the RK station. Street is still busy. I utilized my camera to the maximum to capture the real Delhi. We caught sight of a street Dhaba and ordered dinner as parcel. I found two Englishmen sitting in the roadside bench and having tea. May be they were exploring India and they are curiously looking at the traffic block which was getting bigger on the road.
We walked back and reached the room. I got fresh and had that wonderful chappathi and channa masala. I increased the cooling of the AC and watched through the permenantly closed glass window. It was10.30 and I saw rickshaw walas going back to their homes. I took two three snaps through the glass. The street is empty now. I took my phone and scrolled over my WhatsApp texts. I change the status: ‘yeh dilli Hein mere yaar’. I got into the blanket and wrote in my mind.
Pyaar hua is shehar se, is galliyon se, is raat se, dilli se…
Fallen in love with this city, this streets, this night, this Delhi.