My city : Delhi has changed so much for me. Is it the city, or is it just me? Why do I find it so strange now? Can South Delhi be the answer to it?
I grew up in East Delhi, to be specific in DDA flats, in areas that were designated for specific purpose. There were parks, roads, and public spaces. There were people from different age groups always occupying these spaces. There were the “chai walla bhaiyas”, “mochi walle bhaiya”, “vegetables walli didi”, “juice walle bhaiya” plenty of ‘people landmark’ that made these spaces extremely familiar for me. I grew up in a gated colony, but I knew it was not the gates which kept me at ease. It was these lovely landmarks whom I remembered, who were part of my walking memory, people who were there as long as I remembered. We all shared a social history; I would say I planted my love for walking there.
Growing up in Delhi, and that too in East Delhi, basically meant I had to travel a lot by bus, for going to school, for going out anywhere. So time travelling and space travelling was part of my daily schedule. I kind off adored this schedule. I would be travelling the same route daily, but there were so many possibilities and life seemed full of stories. There was so much to see, and so much to tell.
With entry of metro, life became even more travel-esque. I could actually go places, that were beyond my sketched imagination. I could see Delhi in ways I had never seen before. In simple words, I could reach places of Delhi in Maximum Rs7 and that too in AC coach. In school dress, I could travel Delhi and with so many people around with me.
So there, I was busy growing up in Delhi with all its complications. Appa ( my dad) made it a point, we walked for pleasure, and we walked for work. He instilled the habit of walking in me, and made it actually possible for me to enjoy life and places at slow pace. I could be in control of my pace, and observe things at my own happy time. We would get out everyday for walks, and would happily walk for miles and come back exhausted but I had so many stories to tell.
When I left my home and came back to my city as an adult, and started exploring this city of mine, on my own, I must confess it became more difficult for me. I had instilled all the worries as an adult women. I could no longer view the city as a city, which I looked forward to explore. I had all the resources at my hand, and yet I just could not do the simple act of walking. Something in me was taken away.
I had shifted to South Delhi, and it was a completely new place for me. No more people landmarks, no more sketched memories. I had to completely restart my walk trails. It was no more the gated community, no more familiarity. in a distance of 25 Kms, the city looked so much different. I suddenly felt like a stranger.
But how does unlearn a habit that has been instilled with time? How does one vanish away from a city’s history? How does one engage with a city?
I then I decided, this city was mine, and I had to conquer it again. It just could not wipe me off of its existence. I was part of its history, present and future, and I was going to etch my memories on it and there, I was walking, slowly exploring one place at a time.
The first time was a 2 minutes walk, in my nearby location in Mehrauli.
Then it was a night walk in Mehrauli, in an area nearby. I had got to know the juicewallas and the chaiwallas by then.
Then it was a much longer walk, where I knew no one, but I could not control my curiosity. It just kept on leading me.
I am not really looking for streetlights or police vans for my walks. I am looking for a warm feeling where the city itself would be willing to engulf me. I am looking for people landmarks who become part of my new social history. I want to belong and I want my feet to slowly conquer the public spaces nearby.
I am still walking this new place of mine.
I still would say, I prefer my East Delhi with so much stories to tell, but I am still exploring South Delhi and learning still to love, and as I would say slowly walking and falling all over in love with my city again.