Last year I had been to Delhi, but that was a 1 day visit – too short a time for a place. But it left a lasting impression on me. And, it also left the need to go back again. Delhi got stuck on my mind.
The plan for Delhi just happened all of a sudden. I decided to pack my bag for a place that I need to visit. A bucket list….May be. Delhi was beckoning.
Yes, before I proceed to narrate. There was a huge altercation between me and my Delhi-ite companion about the ‘Plan’. I had prepared a list of places to be covered and activities to be done in a new place. It must be fun. But when I discussed the itinerary with my companion, there was an unexpected response. No need of an itinerary!!! What’s a tour with a plan…Like Joker had said in Dark Knight….”Do I look like a guy with a Plan?!! Let’s just do things….” For the sake of it, as things come, as time takes one in its flight.
So, after getting on the car at Airport, first thing on our mind was where to go? We decided to go to some place nearby, in South Delhi only. Closest was Vasant Kunj and we reached there in 15 minutes. Thank God, for the traffic (or absence of it) in Delhi. Vasant Kunj market was deserted place now. It appeared to have some history. It must have been a forward place years back, but now it has fallen into disrepute.
After quick breakfast at Ambience Mall, we decided to do some serious touristy now. So we decided to go to Qutub Minar, which was close by. By our side, we could see the Campus wall of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the lush greenery from inside. I wanted to see what’s inside. But we were on our way to Qutub Minar.
All throughout the road, the absence of traffic snarls hit me hard. For someone from Mumbai, it is not a normally expected state of affairs.
We reached Qutub by 1 o’ clock. The majestic Minar stood in its full glory. When you look up at Qutub, your gaze goes up straight to the sky. I could see the beautiful Red Minar juxtaposed against the beautiful blue sky. As if some celestial potter has built an ochre funnel into the blue background. Qutub Complex was magnificent, bearing witness to India’s cultural assimilations, frictions and interactions. On one side there was Hindu temple, on the other a Jain monument, all in the background of an Islamic structure. The architecture of India signifies the cultural syncretism of our nation and defines us. The ruins of Alauddin’s tomb were most striking place in the Complex. The friezes were amazing. The garden which overlooked the Complex was soothing to eyes. I was exhausted from the walking around the huge complex.
My Hotel was situated in Central Delhi, some 15 kilometers from Qutub. We crossed many notable places in South Delhi – the IIT, Hauz Khas, AIIMS, Safdar Jung, etc. I had booked a room in the only French Hotel in Delhi – Le Meridien. The Hotel stood up to its name. The hotel was brimming with life. There were so many people from various parts of the World. It looked like a big fairground. The interior of the Hotel was artistic. It looked like a scene from a sci-fiction. The uniformity and patterns made on the floor was striking.
The day was too hectic. Too busy, too fulfilling and complete. I crashed on bed and slept off before realising what time it was.
Day 2, I got up early at 5:30 a.m. Yesterday I had fixed up a unique tour around Old Delhi. My companion too was game for it. It was one of the things I always loved – Cycling. This was a unique programme which offered a cycling trip around some of the deep, interior underbelly of Old Delhi. The description sounded awesome. We had hooked up with the organisers in previous evening and in the morning we just got up and ran.
We reached the venue at 6.30 am. We were on time. There was an American lady before us, waiting to take part in the tour. There were 2 guides, one Indian and another Belgian. I spoke to the Belgian guide in French! It seems France shadows my life. I must say, the Haveli (Noblemen’s mansion) tour is truly a spirited and satiating plunge, straight into the deep-end of Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad).
For those who love authentic south Indian food, do not miss the veg / non-veg Thaali at Andhra Bhawan in Connaught Place. Do not expect much of ambience, but the succulent chicken pieces and seafood there will surely delight you.
The sacred places of Muslims in Delhi, Nizamuddin Dargah is one of the most visited mausoleums. We visited the Dargah on a Friday. The screens of stone were surrounding the Tomb of Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Many Qawwalis and songs featuring in Bollywood movies have been dedicated to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The Sufi tradition prizes its music, a direct approach to the soul, entrancing the listener. The powerful words awaken a sense of devotion that our lives of today bury deep within. I wish I could attend an evening of Sufi Qawwalis which takes place there every Thursday.
After sunset, it was Lutyens’ Delhi in evening. Magnificent. Bustling crowd, people pouring in and out of underground Palika Bazaar, crowd in the subways. It was so different from Mumbai. There was a definite distinction between the behaviour of people from Mumbai and Delhi. I could see it, feel it, but could not keep my finger on it. It kept bothering me.
Day 3 was the best day and also the last day in Delhi. Breakfast at Le Meridien was delectable. They were playing French Songs. The Beautiful Delhi morning was like a Mediterranean morning.
It was 15 August, Independence Day and so I visited the Gateway of India to give my salutations. I had seen wall of JNU on Day 1 and was eager to see the structure behind the wall. May be some urge to go there. So, I asked the driver to transport me to JNU. As Delhi-ites say, we had to do “jugaad” (solution to a problem in an intelligent way) to get in the campus of JNU especially on a National Holiday. To my great surprise, I felt a déjà vu. I have been here before, School of Social Sciences, classrooms, Jhelum Hostel, canteen, all look so familiar. According to Freud, déjà vu is a remembrance of an unconscious fantasy. And since this fantasy is never conscious, during a déjà vu moment it is impossible to “recall” something that seems to have been already perceived.
So what is that differentiates Delhi from Mumbai? In Mumbai, people start their day with a “Plan”. Day is done, gone the sun in executing this “Plan”. Whereas in Delhi, people just do things without any “Plan”. And, while in Delhi, I lived like a Delhi-ite too (without any Plan).
Cheers – Lubna