Part 7: X-factors
For this final post of the series, I have decided to abdicate responsibility. To two people who can write better about their cities: Anand and Bombay Addict.
As I see it, this series is not about coming up with the 'better' city, that's for statisticians like them (and here)*. I have had the experience of living in both the cities. With frequent travel that I end up doing, I also get to experience the best in them simultaneously. I count myself lucky.
In a country that is picking itself up with frenetic pace, these two cities will determine what India will be over the next fifty years, if not the next century. It might sound pompous, but I believe it's not. The conversations we are having at Andhra Bhavan and in Mondegar, in buses, in trains, in Metros, at Nehru Park and on Marine Drive, why even on blogs, will determine public opinion, policy and results. In Tony Greig's words, "It's all happening out here."
Also, I must add that when I started off this series of posts, I was convinced that Bombay is better than Delhi. I still am convinced (Girl, are you reading?), but I have started understanding and getting to know the city of my childhood and adoloscence a little bit more. I don't know whether I have fallen in love with that city yet, but I definitely have started appreciating it more. That, for a week of effort, was definitely worth it. So, SloganMurugan, panga notwithstanding, it's over to friends.
"...In Delhi, even the most casual observer will notice the existence, or at least the possibility, of many times. Whether it is the roundabouts of central Delhi where you have government servants taking extended lunch breaks of playing cards right next to the swirling traffic, or whether it is the empty, echoing spaces of the monuments that dot the busiest localities of South Delhi; Delhi is filled with the juxtaposition of many times at once. And the public space to 'do nothing' if you so wish. No, I'm not just trying to say that Delhi is full of lazy buggers like me. It is just that all time here is not the constant present.
Of course, the fact that Delhi is at least a thousand years old, and that the ruins of the past abound everywhere is just one reason for this. The other is that the ruins and monuments of Delhi are only among the vast amounts of public space that the city has. Lodi Gardens is just one example that brings together the monuments and public spaces of the city wonderfully – there are far more public spaces. Spaces to do nothing if you wish but 'hang around'. The lawns around India Gate, The vast Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Nehru Park in Chanakya Puri and its open air concerts, the vast courtyard of the Jama Masjid . Right next to Delhi University stretches the forested Delhi Ridge.
Much of my first years in Delhi were spent in wandering through far flung ruins, and lying down undisturbed for hours in the cool shade of thick domes. Isa Khan's Tomb was one of my favourite haunts, where I would use my bag as a pillow on hot afternoons, if I was early to meet friends at Nizamuddin Station.
Delhi abounds in space-time – not for metaphorical reasons alone. Including the space to be oneself, perhaps? Delhi does not have one unifying accent/lingo (except, perhaps the distressingly frequent use of the term Behenchod) which can be identified as 'Dilli-ya' to coin a distressingly bad term… there are broad accents, Jat, Purabiya, Punjabi, Malayalee… people keep saying that no one feels like they 'belong' to Delhi… why do they need to? Delhi gives you the space to not belong, I think, or feel the need to… there is room for disagreement here, and arguement, and conversations..." More here.
"...Bombay is a drug. Prolonged use is lethal. Highs include money, wealth and success. That's what draws the droves into the city everyday. From the uneducated exile arriving at VT with Rs10 in his pocket dreaming of becoming a film star, to the IIT-IIM grad arriving at the airport dreaming of heading Citigroup India...
For all its crowds, Bombay also gives you privacy. Even if you share it with a million others, your space is still yours. With the sea as your constant companion. For each harried commuter that pushes you to get ahead at Churchgate station, there will be many others who won't care as you ponder life's vagaries over a sunset at Marine Drive. Or Chowpatty. Or Worli Sea Face. Or Carter Road , Band Stand, Chowpatty and Juhu. You will come here again when you fall in love. And probably when it's raining....
And then the people. Bombay belongs to its masses. Bombay belongs to Sailu, the nariyalpaani-waala , who personifies the typical quiet do-gooder in our city. Bombay belongs to the street kid who peddles a whole array of books at traffic signals. And then asks you for a lift from Mahalakshmi temple to Worli Naka. He's not worried if you refuse. This is Bombay and he'll get his lift. His day is over. It's time to study. Under the streetlights on the road next to the Doordarshan TV Tower. And there are many others like him at the steps of Asiatic Library. They will make it in life. In their own way, all of them will. If they will, so will you. This is Bombay.
I am happy that I didn't attempt to define these cities myself. Do read.
* Having said that, do check the score!!