Monday, October 12, 2009

A village called Delhi

(This article appeared way back in The Pioneer, India, on 18th Sept. 1997… It will be interesting to get the comments of the readers as to “is Delhi still a village or has it evolved into cutting edge fast forward global city”!! NJOY!)
Brought up in a city, I used to feel the distinct disadvantage of not having tasted the village experience. The familiar sights, the laid back attitude towards life, fresh air, under developed infrastructure, numerous animals etc., caused an irrational longing.

Trying to reconcile this longing, a sudden thought struck me, aren't these characteristics of a village similar to Delhi also. (This brought on an argument between the sure shot head and its emotional counterpart, the heart which went something like this).

Delhi - a village? bah!, disdained the heart, but the head was smarter and said okay what does a village have ? Let us start with the morning routine, people perform their morning ablution in the fields, how is it different in Delhi - Sulabh Shauchalyas not withstanding. "So what "said the heart, "look at the pace of life, is it not much slower there?" The head said, have you tried taking one of the renowned red lines. You could re-define the meaning of "on time". It is never in a hurry and stops wherever told. It carries everything from animals to human beings. Try boarding a bus from Chandni Chowk, traders cart their weekly purchase in it. Vegetable vendors think nothing of dumping their wares atop the bus and at times sit along with it - sounds familiar ? Or the butcher, who carries a hen or two in a bus or the milkman who simply hangs the empty vessels at the wrought iron at the back of the bus. Do you categorise all this - "fast paced" ? Even the leaks in the buses add the familiar touch.

The heart not to be put down said, in the village everyone knows everyone. Well haven't you seen the courteous bus conductors and drivers, they stop the bus and call out to everyone. You want to have a glass of water, tell the conductor, he will stop the bus and probably will join you. They might call each other chacha and Tau in the village, here it is uncleji, auntyji, sirji and madamji. Haven't you seen many a driver stop the bus in the middle of the road to exchange notes with a driver driving down the opposite side, so do people in other vehicles.

"The village has lots of animals and trees", the heart attacked. Of course, we have them here also. How many times have you skirted a bovine beauty lying in the middle of the road, chewing cud, blissfully unaware of the havoc caused by it. Or better still, stopped to let a herd of goat or buffaloes pass by. Every village has its pet dog which barks at strangers entering the village and spends its time lying in the shaded porch of the houses. Now swear & speak the truth, doesn't your locality have its pet dog, which lives off the dustbins and barks at strangers entering your colony and sleeps in the corner of the staircase. You can also see the wall of a beautiful building covered with dung cakes. Paan spitting, no problem, habits hardly ever die. We also have the Surajkund melas, dilli haats, veer bazaars, shukr bazaar, just like Gaon ka mela the head was really charged up.

Food.... began the heart, with so many MNCs setting up factories in the interiors, the villagers will know more about Thai & Chinese cooking than you or me. And aren't the Kaku da Dhabha and Chotte lal bhaturewalas akin to those old nukkad joints, finished the head.
The sights may be the same said the heart half convinced, but what of the smell, pure unpolluted air of the villages. With so much industrial pollution, there seems to be little difference retorted the head. The heart, ever the romantic, sighed and said, the undulating stream of fresh water, village belles, the lush green surroundings, pure cool air…. you have been watching too many Hindi movies, scoffed the head. At this point, I said "hey, stop it" and like a true Delhite finished the argument with Ki Pharak Pendha, Dilli village hai, village Dilli hai, sab chalta hai.

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