I can’t be living in a city I hate so much for such a long time. That will be insane. So, I am trying to focus on the good things, elements that I love. That reminds me of Mumbai. I love the city, its energy, its uninhibited ways, the sea, the sealink, frankies at worli Seaface, Sunday brunch at Taj Land’s End, the balconyless apartments (nah, I hate them), the peg and quarter sections at the pubs and the concrete tile roads.
But this post is about why I love Delhi. So, will come back to that.
What if we don’t have the boulevards, we don’t have lakes, we don’t have hills (Aravalis?, come on), we don’t have rivers (Yamuna? Come on), we don’t have a sea. But we can have parks. Actually, we have parks. There is the Indraprastha park at Sarai Kale Khan, the Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri, the Buddha Park somewhere in Delhi, Central Park in CP, the Rajghat, Shanti Van etc etc. They are all beautiful and well maintained, so what I am complaining about?
Like good girls, they are closed for business at night. Delhi has fun at day. If you are out of your home at night, you are either a carjacker, a hoodlum or a gangrapist. On all weekdays, we go to office in the morning, come back home late at night, watch some TV and go to bed. Mumbaikars take a little time out between coming home and going to bed. But in Delhi, as my wife would say, where do you want to go, honey?. The same question day after day, every day.
I live close the city’s best attractions – Humayun Tomb, Lodhi Gardens, India Habitat Center, the Lotus Temple etc. One late evening we decided to head to the Lodhi Gardens, prepared to be turned back to head to the Lodhi Garden Restaurant.
Surprisingly, the park stays open till eight o’clock. The structures are all lit up after sun set and it’s a beautiful exhibition of what life in the city can be. Children playing, chaiwallas serving hot lemon tea, families sitting around centuries old grand structures…why is this Delhi so hard to find? Why is it kept in such short supply?
I lied next to the Bada Gumbad tomb and watched the stars. Later, a friend told me that the influential neighbours of the park had a hand in keeping the park open till late. No matter what my feelings for the city’s power elite, this one time, I thanked them.
But why does this have to be so difficult? For a global city like Delhi, why is there no nightlife outside the pubs? Why can’t families and the non-alcoholics have some open space to themselves?
We all know Delhites are a frustrated lot. A relative from England who had come to visit us was intrigued that we smiled so less in the streets. I told her that when we venture out, we are prepared for war. For parking, for lines at the restaurant, for a place in the billing counter at malls and to fight with anyone who casts an evil eye towards our mothers, sisters, wives and other females from the family and friends.
Every woman in the city knows that a smile in the street is an invitation into the bedroom.
Why are we so angry? There may be hundreds of reasons. But one of them may be that we are not allowed to relax. Paris and London have its riversides, Sydney has its harbor, so does New York. A great city, like a good parent, has to offer different avenues to its children.
What Delhi tells its children, “Child, go work hard, watch some TV and sleep.” Classic case of all work, no play. No wonder, the child is such a nuisance.
Lately, we have become more sensitive to urban planning. The city needs to breathe, so let’s plant more trees. The river needs to flow, so let’s clean it up. I am being hopeful that, with time, we will become more sensitive to the needs of our people too.
I spent the initial years of my life in a village. Forty watt bulbs lit up the insides of the houses, but the village streets were totally, utterly dark. We used to be terribly afraid of venturing out. When I had to piss, I used to ask my mother to come out and hold my hand.
But the night was also the time when we gathered around our grandpa and heard stories. We will make a group and challenge each other to cross a particular point in the verandah. When I was older, my uncle used to put me on the backseat of a bicycle and take me to the market. Riding through those dark roads, holding onto my uncle’s belly like a lifeline, I was afraid that something will sneak up from behind and drag me away. That never happened and I fell in love with the night and the darkness. It taught me to see when nothing can be seen, to imagine, to be brave, to fear but not be embarrassed.
Those were the most wonderful years of my life.
I want those years back. I want all those moments back, for all of us. I don’t want our children not to know the night. I want my day to have twenty four hours and I want to live every moment of those hours. Don’t shut me up, don’t ask me to stay in.
I am appealing for an all-night park for Delhi. Please join in the appeal.