August 19, 2014

Visiting India's Capital - New Delhi





Delhi has been the capital of India for several hundred years. Even when India was ruled by the British and the Mughals, Delhi was the capital, though under different names. Clearly, Delhi has been a privileged city in the Indian subcontinent for at least two hundred years. However, for an outsider it is a challenge to figure out why Delhi continues to enjoy this privilege.  Is it because the Rashtrapati Bhawan happens to be housed here, or perhaps Lyutens Parliament House was built in this city? Outside of this, there appears to be no justifiable reason why the second most polluted city in the world, and one that competes to be the rape capital of the world is held in such high esteem by its citizens in the world's largest democracy.

Even though I don't live in New Delhi anymore, I have lived in this city for an extended period of time, and in the last two decades I have been visiting it quite frequently. In spite of which, Delhi still remains an enigma to me. It is a city that has inspired and lured conquerors and artists for centuries, yet their experiences, writings, and representations of Delhi, though varied, have only added to the enigma of this ancient city. There is no one defining aspect to Delhi other than the fact that it is and has been a nation's capital. Artists and writers have tried long and hard to capture the entirety of Delhi's ethos; every now and again an artist is able to capture or highlight one facet, a mood, a characteristic of this vibrant metropolis.  Delhi transcends, or else defies definition, and that may be the very reason why 'dilli', as it is referred to by its residents, has captured the imagination of so many rulers, artists, and writers. Each one wanting to find meaning in the ever evasive Delhi, manages only to provide and project a myopic and unilateral vision of this dynamic city, and are often disappointed with the outcome. For example, the last Mughal King of Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar, in one of his most soulful lyrics laments that this city 'could not offer a couple of yards of earth to hold his grave'. Khushwant Singh, a writer and journalist wrote a most gripping novel depicting Delhi metaphorically as a 'slut'.  Ahmed Ali in his novel 'Twilight in Delhi' captures it's elusive nature when he said  "Delhi, built hundreds of years ago, fought for, died for, coveted and desired, built, destroyed and rebuilt, for five and six and seven times, mourned and sung, raped and conquered, yet whole and alive, lies indifferent". 

Delhi has, indeed, evoked some very strong emotions in many brilliant and imaginative minds, and when one visits this city it is easy to see why. Daunting as it is, I have tried to capture and document the various moods and colors of this enigmatic city during my stay here this summer.....

More to follow....

3 comments:

Margie said...

I would love to visit New Delhi someday , my niece has been there 3 times for work and enjoyed it

KOMAL SINGH said...
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berenice said...

Happy New Year I Me My! Salutes from San Diego!