Thursday, April 03, 2008

Opinion - The Why of Hating Delhi

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Is He Dead?

This city sucks big time.

[The author is a well-known fashion designer; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Of all that I hate, I hate Delhi the most.

What's there to like about it?

The Qutub Minar? Sure, but try visiting it. If the touts don't get you, the traffic on the way will. I'd rather just go see Nelson on his horse another time.

The food? No doubt keeps the medical trade flourishing in this city.

The supposedly warm and hospitable people? Read the newspapers please! People who kill for bread even when there is bread for all, people who maim, rape, crush people.

The business? Not good unless you deal in fake brand names or street food, and these days even bribes don't ensure the ability to conduct business peacefully.

The cultural scene? Sorry, I have no idea - every time one goes anywhere arty, there are too many mobile phones ringing, or babies bawling, or women discussing their next cards party, for one not to leave in a huff.

The history? One of intrigue, yes, but sadly almost entirely taken over by the Government, paan-stained to beyond death - the Indian equivalent of airbrushing.

The weather? Don't even get me started.

Couldn't one do anything about it?

I tried. I will never forget the day I picked up an empty crisps packet from the pavement and put it into the bin, it having been dumped there a second before by a person about 30 years of age. The look everyone gave me felt like I'd just slaughtered a cow in the road. It took me a few weeks to realise what ultimately happens to trash inside bins in Delhi. The same thing as to trash outside bins. At best, it is ferried to a dump and left to rot, or not, depending upon its composition and the will of the Gods. No wonder I don't give a toss any longer.

I tried to make friends. I found that to have friends here, you must shake madly every time you hear Summer of '69. You should always bring alcohol to every party, but never say anywhere that your hosts do drink it, etc. etc.

Is it really that bad?

Let's face it - this city is dull for regular people like me. There isn't a pub to walk to for a quiet pint. There isn't a walk without people shitting, sitting, living on it. There isn't a concert unless it's someone plucking strings on some obscure instrument.

The hypocrisy is terrible - women in purdah one moment, sex with a grand daughter the next.

What can you possibly give in favour of an amalgamation of medieval villages that insists on calling itself the first city?

Things I have heard Delhi wallas say about their city: A city bereft of culture; abused by its own people; one big toilet.

So why stay here?

Let me try and think romantically.

Every March and October, a wild creeper makes its way up from the service lane at the back of my house all the way to the first floor bedroom window. It may be poisonous for all I know, but it has pretty flowers. The gardener is too lazy to hack it down.

Every season, a new cafe opens, and stays worthy of being visited for about a month. Then the commoners find it, and ask for too much spice in everything so the nice chef leaves. Even the piss-stained monuments can be captivating, if visited on a winter morning. Maybe I’m just an old pervert, though, but I like surprising people making out in those arches in Lodi Garden.

Every thirty seven days or so, my landlady gives me a fresh flower from her patch of green, with the super-hiked electricity bill.

And I must say I did meet one sensible person here - just one, but that's all one needs at times. Definitely no trouble there.

There is change in Delhi - almost always for the worse, but there is that daily twang of uncertainty about life. It may kill you, but it does thrill you. These may sound like reasons invented in a desperate mood, but they work for me. They have worked for others before me, too. Perhaps that's why Delhi has had its Phoenix-like past, eight or nine times over.

It may not be clean or green, but I think by a stroke of chance, someone did get it right - at the end of the day, in its own terrible way, it's become my Delhi - I care. At least enough to have written this. Now if only it cared back a tad, the bloody witch.


James said...

Snobbery is so middle brow.

Praful said...

Its the attitude of the people (most of them at least) that makes me want to grab them and shake them like a rattle. Zero respect for women, taking pride in breaking the law and absolutely no civic sense. That is how I would define a typical "Delhi Walla"

John said...

I am sure the city does not require you to condescend to care for it.

Are there touts in front of all monuments? Have you visited Safdarjung's tomb?

The food does not keep the medical trade flourishing. I am a voracious eater of street food, and have rarely had complaints. In fact street food is one one of the things I love about Delhi. If only they'd stay open a little longer.

Cultural scene: Clearly you have been for the wrong set of events. The qawali at the Nizamudin dargah on Thursdays and Fridays.

Concerts: Ever been for GIR? Or did you go for Eastwind?

The weather??? Winters are the best thing about Delhi. IMHO.

Attitude shattitude whatever. I wish they'd respect women more, but I have seen some serious shit in parts of the country where women are apparently respected the most. I wish there were more pubs where I could chill.. but I still have 4S.

Just as full of contradictions as the next Indian city-town-village. There is no reason to label it so.

wanderer said...

perhaps, we need more people who hate Delhi. The city often gives a feeling of wasteland. The comfort levels of residents are quite high, that nothing really disturbs them about the city - the emotional aggression borne out of sterility is instead much more evident.
well written piece!

kanishka said...

Ha ha the commoners who ask for too much spice so the nice chef leaves

the landlady who charges high rents

this is a terrible piece of writing. it stinks not just because its so snobbish but because its so lazy.

all you've ever done is pick up a packet of chips and put it into a rubbish bin? where do you get the balls to complain?

thalassa_mikra said...

Agree with Kanishka - terrible condescending piece of bullshit. And very rich coming from a fashion designer *smirk*.

No offence, but I'm guessing you're not exactly India's answer to Yohji Yamamoto. I'll trust my neighbourhood darzi Ahmed Bhai to make my clothes for me. Less attitude, better workmanship.

You guys are part of the problem you know - you're the ones who make it so unpleasant for the rest of us. The ones who whine, whine, whine, have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and contribute two hoots to the civic culture of any city.

Anonymous said...

A lot of things are wrong in this city..I mean a LOT of things are wrong and I cant stand it....Then what is it that makes me love Delhi so much?
Mir on one occasion had said “Dil va Dilli dono agar hai kharaab; Pa kuch lutf us ujde ghar mein bhi hain,” (Both heart and Delhi may have been worn out, But some little pleasures still remain in this ruined house)

Anonymous said...

i think the author should move to new york or somewhere and design chuddies for bored long islanders. and let the rest of us enjoy delhi!

munish said...


I have lived in Delhi for over 30 years and it is the city where my forefathers lived .

So such kind of negative post is not at alll digestible.

I learnt recently ,that a woman was molested in Los Angeles.SO that kind of thing happens everywhere.

Good and bad are every where.


Anonymous said...

Hey,I am a "Long Islander" and I enjoyed Delhi...