The whistling of the train blended with the early morning azaan was my first alarm that made my mornings memorable in Delhi. I didn’t know when the sound started and when it ended, but I knew its somewhere around five in the morning, and it was time to leave my cozy bed.
The again and the whistling train didn’t mean much to me when I was in Delhi. Delhi was my home for a good 36 years physically and will ever remain my home as long as I have breath.
Delhi may mean many things to many people. People say it is a shit hole, the most polluted, populated, and the unsafe one. Everyone complains about Delhi, but no one understands Delhi.
It is on the surface, unhygienic and filthy but deep inside the narrow lanes and unbreathable air, it is a deep and vibrant melting pot of different cultures and lifestyles.
Delhi for the last 3000 years has stood the onslaught of barbaric invaders, and partition. The arts, architecture, language, and the food all merge somewhere in the dilapidated old buildings, under the open hanging wires and in the open cauldron of burning hot oil frying lip-smacking gulab jamun and samosas.
Rapid urbanization that followed by the advent of Punjabi refugees from Pakistan, and the onslaught of liberalization, Delhi saw the rapid development of recreation spaces, industrial centers, and shopping malls. Many new residential colonies were added with housing plots and flats though Walled City faced continuous apathy by the consecutive governments for creating necessary civic infrastructure and lacked essential planning.
Over the years, Delhi retained its character though its body and face kept on changing.
Temples, mosques and other religious places dotted around the city’s landscapes with little patches of forests amidst the concrete jungle provide solace to the cracked bodies and parched souls.
Social and cultural aspects provide an unmatched aesthetics to the city, which is plagued by poverty, inequality, intolerance, and castes inequality and greed.
Dargahs, Gurudwaras, Churches and Hindu and Jain temples are the souls of Delhi. They provide the most magical, memorable, and mystical experience in the hustle and bustle of the city.
One can soak in the electric atmosphere of devotional Sufi qawwali on the Thursday nights at Nizamuddin Dargah or heal your mind, body, and soul in the tranquil waters of magnificent Bangla Sahib Gurudwara.
Understand the rich Delhi history by visiting temples that have stood the onslaught of time, and demolition by invaders. Immerse yourself in the divine chantings and unique traditions and stories behind different temples. Offer liquor and alcohol at Bhairon temple or offer milk at eight hundred-year-old Gauri Shankar Temple.
Let the sound of soft devotional music and fragrance of the rose petals at ‘Phool Walon ki Sair’ waft through the air. Or summon the faithful inside you with the swinging of church bells at the Cathedral Church of Redemption.
Hidden beneath the clouds of dust and toxic fumes, there lies a city with a generous heart and sacred soul.
Tune to your inner eye and be ready to get bedazzled with the splendor and glory scattered in every nook and corner of the city.
I can only think of these lines by Ghalib, “Ik Roz apni rooh se poocha, ki Dilli kya hai, to yun jawab main Keh gaye, yeh duniya mano jism hai aur Dilli uski jaan (I asked my soul, ‘What is Delhi?. ’ It replied, ‘The world is the body, Delhi, its soul”.
Be a flaneur at heart and find your way amongst the incense sticks, earthen lamps, candles, and chadars.