‘To Long or Belong’: My Love-Hate Relationship With Delhi

The very first thing that I associate with Delhi is the Ghazipur garbage dump, in all its repulsive glory, being taller than the Qutub Minar. I am quite sure that by saying this, I am shrouding the culturally vibrant parts of the city.

The very spirit of Delhi is inexplicably eclectic. It is home to political dignitaries, intellectuals, slum-dwellers, refugees, museums, embassies, historical sites, bazaars, colonies – and a whole range of nameless in-betweens.

My own experience with the city has so far been erratic. However, the persistent emotion has been of deep disappointment – the place is nowhere close to the beautiful pictures tucked in between the pages of my history textbooks, not even the slightest. If Delhi was a person, I would have probably hated her. She is unclean, temperamental, obnoxiously loud, and basically everything that I’m not.

My first encounter with Delhi was as a tourist, as part of a seven-day trip in and around the capital. It is ironical, now that I think of it, that the very city that remains elusive even after four months of living, was “explored” in a single day during that trip.

By the end of it, I found myself caught in an array of questions – is the Humayun Tomb in Delhi or Agra? Which state is Fatehpur Sikri in? What exactly was it that caught my eyes in Jaipur? Why do I smile when I think of the Sheesh Mahal?

I wish I knew the answers.

This was two years ago and yet, I often go back to those questions emotions and images – especially now that I am just an hour away from this melting pot of cultures. It is not that I crave to be in the midst of it all, nothing could be further away from the truth.

Also read: Why I Don’t Love Delhi

Recently, I visited Delhi to go to a part of the city called Saket.

Although the journey was not too bad, I constantly found myself craving to go back to the four walls of my ultra-modern hostel room. Furthermore, I found myself comparing the visuals around to my homeland, Kerala. The greenery even within the most crowded streets, the signboards that I couldn’t understand, the food that brought back thousand sweet memories – everything reminded me of something I couldn’t have. There was a vacuum within my aching heart, craving for a touch of familiarity in this solitude.

The images of that place that I’ve come to call ‘home’ have acquired a form of beauty which I had not noticed before. If romanticisation was poison, I would have been dead long ago. The curse of an eternal dreamer.

As I count the number of days left to finally wrap myself in my well-worn and snug blanket at home, I wonder what is it that makes me crave that sense of belonging. I feel not just me, perhaps all of us find something indescribably comforting in being surrounded by the chocolate-like warmth of home. Is this a weakness, a human flaw? Maybe.

There might come a time when we won’t be unwillingly tied to the pangs of loneliness, but will perhaps learn to revel in it. Till then, I continue to be haunted by this gloomy labyrinth of pain, confusion and wretchedness.

Meanwhile, I return to that garbage dump many times – despite my aversion.

In my head, I see the crows, eagles and the stray vultures silently circling in the sky, perhaps searching for that which will always remain elusive. Just like my own search for a delusional sense of belonging in this strange and unknown city that is Delhi.

Dhiya Sony is a second-year undergraduate student, pursuing History and International Relations at Ashoka University, Haryana. 

Featured image credit: Unsplash