Shontu was not looking forward to settling down in Delhi. In fact, he was sure he would never settle down. The city was rough, unfeeling and cold. He wondered if his sweater and monkey-cap from Kolkata would suffice.
When the broker found him a home in Chittaranjan Park, he noted how the nameplate on his left-hand neighbour’s door said “Ruma and Ranjit Mukherjee”. “Are you living with a Punjabi?” demanded his Mom over the phone. “Delhi is probably full of them.” She was pleasantly surprised when he tracked down a handful of Bhattacharjees, Chatterjees, Boses and Goswamis, all down his street.
The day he signed his transfer letter back in Kolkata, he had a hearty meal of all things he loved: chicken, fish, aloo dum and rice. The people in Delhi probably had fish once a week. In their rushed lives, where was the time to sit back and pick at bones? Shontu found out how mistaken he had been only when he stepped into the market one day. There was a long row of stores selling fish, chicken and mutton, ghugnee and fuchka, and sweets of all shapes and sizes. The air was aromatic and he could have jumped up in delight had his layers of clothing allowed.
When Durga Puja came, there were at least ten pandals at walking distance from his flat. Ma was hysterical:“We have sent you videos of our Pujo pandal. So you won’t feel lonely.” He sent her pictures of the pandals in Delhi instead, especially of the chicken kabiraji which was out of the world.
On Sundays, the colony woke up to radha pallabi – delicious stuffed luchis and aloo sabji. Even the home delivery menus named their items in Bangla. The winds sang Rabindra Sangeet and rain fell down in musical strands of the veena. Who said Delhi was noisy?
Two years had passed since he had first come to Delhi. His room was full of suitcases. It was a chilly day, the kind meant to stay in and cook chicken-rice. Ruma and Ranjit Mukherjee were down in the frontyard, looking for an auto to take him to the airport. Ma was calling him every few minutes.
“Shontu! I am glad you’re coming back. You won’t be homesick anymore.”
He walked down the stairs and into the open. Chittaranjan Park was waking up to a lazy morning. The market was being dusted; it would soon be fragrant and festive. Bells were tolling in the Kali Mandir, at a stone’s throw from his flat. With a sigh, he realized how Ma had got it wrong this time. He would now be homesick for Chittaranjan Park.
* * *
For all the badmouthing that Delhi receives, there lies herein undying charm. Every Wednesday, find on Saddi Delhi a fresh story from life in the capital. Right from delicious food in Delhi’s alleyways to dreamy winters that paint the skies white.
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