I first came to Delhi in 1994.
That July afternoon, sitting in a white Ambassador car, for the first time I realized I could sweat. I was in the midst of the Indian summer.
Seventeen years later, after almost about 25 visits to this city that celebrated its 100th year as India’s capital on December 12 (I was here at this exact day too), I arrive in Delhi once again in the middle of its summer days.
Coming to Delhi has been some sort of tradition, especially since I have family here. And every time I visit this city, the progress it has made during the past years keeps surprising me.
The reminiscence of the Old Delhi area of 1994 or even the Rajendra Nagar and Karol Bagh area where my father lived for sometime—and was home to my winter breaks—have gone through a complete renovation.
You step out of the airplane, and Delhi’s new airport—if you haven not seen it—is one of the city’s latest achievement in terms of infrastructural development. You then hit the road and then see Gurgaon’s new face: high-rise building and five-lane streets.
Hopping on Delhi’s metro is something that fascinates me. Compared to those jeeps that I use to take from Delhi Gate to Palika Bazaar and the crowded buses from Shanker Road, the air-conditioned metros are a luxury. It’s clean—no paan spits yet or I have not noticed them—convenient and connects this huge metropolis making commuting easy.
During these years, Delhi’s neighborhood has also seen a boom in high-rise buildings, multiplexes and malls.
While I am amazed by Delhi’s development every time I land here, I try to stick to the city’s traditional side.
Whenever I am here, I cannot wait to ride on those rickshaws and auto-rickshaws. It has got its own charm: the bargaining before the ride, the bumpy rides through the city’s potholes and being under the open sky soaking up the heat, humidity or the chilly winter weather.
While I am here, I often try to avoid going to fancy restaurants (but cannot help sometimes). I rejoice Delhi’s culinary delights in the small, local dhabas. Nothing beats the taste tandoor roti, daal makhani, butter chicken and rajma. I’d go for local restaurant in Parathewali Gali than a fancy restaurant somewhere in the south.
Walking through Chandani Chowk and the Jama Masjid area is another activity that I do not get tired of in Delhi. It is chaotic. The traffic, the people, the vendors: there is something about them. It is Delhi after all, the capital of a country with more than a billion people.
Browsing the shops in the narrow lanes, having a glass of cold lassi and then getting a plate of chaat off the street, it is an experience that I do not miss whenever I am here.
Also, a walk through the cosmopolitan Delhi around Connaught Place and Janpath area is something I do just to observe the changes, if any, within the intervals of my visit.
All these years, I have never come to Delhi as a tourist. It has always been a family affair.
There is a strange sense of familiarity with this city, and oddly enough an attachment too. But my attachment is still with the city’s traditional side rather than that of the modern metropolis.