Delhi is home. That’s the first association that comes to mind. Old friends, college, job and a whole lot of nostalgia about all that and loads of other things. It’s like going back in time and living a slice of life then. Trips to Delhi are as much about catching up with the family in the present as it is about walking through the streets of nostalgia. The drive out of the airport is so non-bumpy (in contrast to Mumbai) that i am beaming with happiness already. Taking in the broad roads, swanky infrastructure and the familiar landscape is so “wow, i’m home” feeling! What adds to the feeling is being cautious and suspicious as you should be in Delhi! In fact instructions to come home from the airport begin with ‘carefully’!!
Eating rajma chawal and kadhi chawal. Yum! Snatches of conversation in typical dilliwali hindi in the metro train. A smile and the thought “it’s been so long since i heard that!!” are instant. The aunties dressed over the top. The college dudes imported from Bihar trying to look cool with micromax or nokia headphones in their ears. The common man ogling at women because he is just that - a man! (i notice that and realise this is so common here, unlike Mumbai). Cycle rickshaws. But now I feel pity for them peddling away in the heat!
Friends. Real people i spent time and shared life with. Lots of them that i don’t end up meeting most in one single trip. (there’s just little me and the time-space continuum is too large to cover in a few days i am there!!) i meet some and leave the rest for the next time, whenever that would be!
Taking the old metro route that i used to for office. A visit to Connaught Place to meet a friend and my feet automatically move into my old office- which is changed beyond recognition and the old people gone. But still it’s special for being a place i spent a few years of my life! The feelings are so strong that I have to go round the inner circle (of CP) despite the heat.
Ironically, i also feel like a tourist especially when it comes to the expansive metro routes. i find myself consulting maps at stations because the routes run into each other and meet at multiple points. Also, it is important to pay attention to what i wear. i can’t forget that in saddi dilli it’s the clothes you wear, the car you drive and the size of your house among other things. Trying to get the first one right itself seems taxing, thank god i don’t have to bother about the other two at least!
But a few days into the trip and i miss the familiarity and comfort of my routine life. Music is not playing in the background as it usually is. I can’t watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S at will because I am busy doing other stuff. Internet is not free flow and i am struggling with the internet dongle! (tho there is wireless there too). And there are so many people around in the house including kids running around. Sometimes I don’t belong there. Not like home!
And then it hits me - Mumbai is home! Like Delhi will never be. The comfort zone. The music playing in the background. My own time with my laptop. Just me to decide when to do stuff. The comfort of sleeping in my own bed. The non-pretentious daily life where there are more important things to worry about than what the neighbor wears or drives to work. The feeling of being safe at any time of the night! (My friend in Delhi was worried about me having to travel back home at 7.30pm!!!) Even my body language changes as i wait outside the airport waiting for my taxi! I am home!!
Interestingly, there were a couple of cultural shocks too. The size of Delhi homes, though i have lived in one for more than a decade! Guess the longer you live in one place, the farther you move away from where you lived before. i am all for big houses and lots of space, which i still miss but actually being them feels like ‘whoa! that’s like space for 4 houses in Mumbai! A visit to my niece’s school for her PTM was ample exposure to dilli culture. Again, i felt something odd about most moms arriving dressed to flaunt!! “Rapchick Moms”!! It didn’t seem like a formal meeting with the teachers at school about how their kids were doing. Because that’s how i look at it. For them it’s an occasion where other parents will be there, right! So time to flex some high class muscles!
Though the cultures are so opposite to each other, Delhi and Mumbai will be homes to me! i don't see the point in the debate of it being difficult to live in one of these cities having lived in the other!!