The streetlights are at work outside. They were recently put to task by authorities we had called and called until they gave in. And now what with their yellow glow against the darkening Delhi sky, it is quite a loaded picture. You know what I mean?
People are rushing home to waiting mothers, wives and children (oh, in no order of priority) and listening to Radio City. Some people have – what do you call them, woofers? – and the music blares. “Ek doosre ko hum sone na de.”* Considering the amount of noise, that, anyhow, is guaranteed.
There are plenty of senior citizens on their evening walk. They meet at crossroads and exchange (verbal) notes about how complex offices now are (and how they used to take the kids to Qutab Minar every weekend). “Bahu comes back at 9. 9!” “And your son?” “Well, he leaves at 9.” Life in Delhi used to be simpler, didn’t it? Now we have oh-so-many cars and oh-so-many cell phones but whatever happened to dinner table conversation?
Back inside, away from the glow and glare of the streetlights, Mom is busy fixing me a glass of nimboo paani. Over the ages, this has been a constant for summer. All that has changed, it seems, is the quality of the nimboos. They used to come better, yellower and riper, recollect people who lived in better, yellower and riper times. Other constants have been fussing about water – and scowling at anyone who leaves the tap running, ice-cream wallahs walking the (almost) deserted afternoon lanes and water hoses in the front garden. On bad days, there invariably is a squabble or two about parking at the gate and getting dogs ‘relieved’ where the prettiest flower blooms.
It will soon be night-time. There will be a patrolling police car alerting miscreants with a shrill horn, a chowkidaar’s whistle competing with chowki’s meow and a neighbour or two returning from their dose of Delhi’s vibrant nightlife. Not that the day-life is any less vibrant, though. And that is if you do not count the endless processions, baraats and langar events that line the street when the sun shines.
Whenever an airplane hides Delhi under clouds or a chugging train leaves it behind, I get a strange feeling. Almost instantly, I yearn for its people, so distinctly marked by Delhi despite their various cultures and traditions. I yearn for her wide streets, her not-so-wide glitzy markets, her constant flurry of activity. The thought of not waking up to a Delhi morning and snuggling up at night in her mysterious, if often starless, arms, gives me a sense of loss.
But, what awaits me on the other side of such a night is a day no less beautiful. It is a day packed with romance of her own, full of little remembrances and much to be experienced. Somewhere there is R, probably smiling as well as smirking (certain liberties of independent existence cannot be retained any longer, you see). Somewhere also is the shop that christened this place – in its former avatar.
It is time, finally – well, on the 3rd of June to be precise – to return to *jingles bell* Pune!
Very soon, “Saddi Delhi” will again be “Of Paneer, Pulao and Pune”, truer to the URL. While we may be changing locations (and names), we promise to keep this space fresh and spicy, if Pune-fied. Do wish us luck (and promise we’ll see you there) !