It’s a belief I have held for long now – cities are like people. With both, you tend to lose objectivity in your feelings and start viewing them through the lenses of experiences you have had and memories you created with them. More often than not, it starts with a sense of uncomfortable unfamiliarity, progresses with moments of intense dislike and regret and gradually with time you begin to know them, accept them with all their flaws and eventually develop a relationship which is deeper than what objectivity can perceive. So, if Varanasi has been that family member for me which I have just known to love always in that cocooned sense of comfort and ownership, Pilani and Jamshedpur have been those growing up companions with whom I grew up, learnt about what it means to grow up and come out of that protective shell.
Delhi, on the other hand, over a period of time (3 years, and more) has become like that close friend, who you might find many flaws with, constantly crib about yet develop a deep sense of affection and a sense of belonging. From the tall towers of Noida – Ghaziabad, to the affable and loud neighborhood of Patel Nagar, to the superficial posh of the South Delhi to the glitzy shine of the Millennium city Gurgaon with a dark underbelly, all of them seem familiar now. Few years back, it was this big halt on the way to my college and my eyes would never get tired of staring at the tall buildings, wide roads, curvy flyovers and the metro in construction. Even today, the magic remains intact – only with higher intensity and with a mixture of many other emotions. The wide roads which would seem like the route to a different world altogether, today after 3000 kms of biking on them seem like my own companion who share the joy of the wind blowing on my face leaving the metropolis behind. The flyovers which teased me with their twists and curves and rise and fall take me along with them in their joyride. The metro which seemed to be digging a whole new world into the future now seems like a way of life, no more than taking a rickshaw back in the towns of hinterland. The pubs and bars with their edgy lights and sounds seemed alien now embrace me with all the warmth- mostly of the memories of good times. You don’t really belong to a city unless you know its ways, its lanes and roads and getting across it. The joy which I feel on covering the width and length of the NCR on 2 wheels is something which will always fill my heart with a warm feeling, and a belief that yes I know this city, I know its roads.
Delhi is not just another city, it is actually a combination of many of them, each with a different flavor of its own. Like a giant beast with many limbs, it goes on expanding ever and not always in dignified proportions, often out of sync with each other and resulting in case when it grows so big that one part does not know about the other. Noida and Ghaziabad – with its mixed contours of UP and sprinkling of the metropolis, offer a comfort the kind of which you get from meeting a person from your hometown in a new place. Greater Noida is all that, only in a much more beautiful, planned and evolved way, mostly due to lack of the population. The connecting link – The Expressway will always remain the first love of my bike, and the memories we share their together will be precious. Gurgaon, (no, not Gurgram) a living metaphor of the classic Indian metro planning (i.e. a disaster) is a different breed altogether – with its super posh and rich skyline, drinking addas and of course that place called Cyber Hub. Delhi, of course the center of it all (literally and figuratively) remains that heady cocktail of political storms, bits of history round every corner and the origin of all things big in the country. Move beyond the borders to the interior and you find a city of civilization in process and in construction co-existing together
And that is something which is common to all part of this monster called the National Capital Region – construction. As if the capital wants to stand as a metaphor to the ever growing dreams of the Indian populace, it is since time immemorial (at least in my life time) has always been a work in progress. Large stretches of lands in Noida and Gurgaon offer a scenic (in a weird way) views of towers getting erected one floor above the other, one tower behind the other. Before the roads and people kick in, there is this whole another world of slums of the construction workers and their families which inhabit it, and a few years later the same places are inhabited by the people who occupy the other end of the divide of the society. Some areas just seem perpetually under construction, with the ever changing demographics of the NCR. As if along with my personal growth, the mega city also grows, and both of us still struggling to identify if this is the point to stop, or if all went right.
It seems alright though, both the city and the time spent here. The single required and sufficient evidence for that is the pain that I feel as I move on, and the wonderful people and memories I share with them, and the roads, the metro, the malls, flyovers and all things which shape and define the city. This city has given me a lot – in material, emotional and financial all terms, but as I leave, I leave a part of my soul behind. A part which will always care about the status of that proposed tram network in Chandni Chowk, the trial runs of the Jama Masjid metro line, the launch of new luxury townships in Sohna Road, the Noida-Greater Noida Metro line, the taxi-pods of Manesar-Gurgaon, the happy hours at CP, the new stores and skiing zone in the Mall of India and the pollution levels in the air. Even though I might live somewhere else, love someplace else, and objectively find some other place better, the time spent here and my relationship is with Delhi will remain the same. For all your flaws, Delhi you have been a great friend, and a friend for lifetime for sure. Until we meet next, keep growing!