Friday, January 18, 2013

Delhi 1.0

(FYI: I wrote this quite a while before recent events sharpened my hatred of Delhi; await more nuanced perspectives.)

This blog has taken a while to come into being, as have I, in my Delhi (new) avatar. Moving cities (countries!) and moving jobs is exciting, but having to, alongside the move, shift well-established life-function templates is not only exhausting, its also demoralising.

For example, I miss pavements and comfortable, safe access to public transport. I miss microwaevable 1-minute rice and I deeply and truly miss Microsoft Outlook and its excellent anality-optimising filing functions. I miss grabbing a cappucino on my way to work, egalitarianism dripping off my satisfying goods-services exchange and at a deeper level, I miss swiping in my access card early so I can grab my free copy of the FT.  I miss the honest sanctity of RSVPs, the easy availability of tampons, the creamy smoothness of avocados, the happy zings of bellini-nights and the affordability of Lush products. I miss being enveloped in a cocoon of safe.
Truly, I miss my shallow materialistic self, and I miss my frivolous biglaw life, and I feel a sharp strong hatred for Delhi - my currentus situs.

 However, I do this in moments of pique and not armed with the benefit of forethought. Peruse (if only you could) bloggy avatar 1.3 (2005-2012) and you will realise that for every anguished "Why can I not find a FLUFFY bathrobe in Delhi?" question I could ask now, you will read about a deeply pained "Where can I get jalebis at 2140 while I wait for my evil client to tell me to send out the document?" post or a "Why aren't there enough vegetarian options in the champagne brunch buffet?!" post.
Life in cities across the world comes with inconveniences, I know. In some, you can't pay people enough to get them to fix you up an internet connection in two days, while in others, there isn't a true democracy, and in some others, people fight vigorously over parking spots. Families live in some cities, while others are rent-unattractive, or temperature-unattractive, or simply unattractive. Some have only great sushi, some have mediocre vegetarian sushi, and some have no sushi at all. Some have jalebis many metro stops away, but no monuments that are give or take 800 years old. Some only have public transport, some force you to rely on private, and others offer a colourful but expensive mix. Some are clean and scarily ultra-efficient, but they effectively take away all bacterial immunity that growing up in India has lovingly bestowed upon you. In some, you are the ugly, the unsexual, the un-dateable, the other. In others, the others are the un-dateables, and you are still the other. In a few, you are not the other, but you don't like the one. In most, your cleaner will not tell you how strong your 'curry' smells, leaving you with a curious undeterminable sense of shame; in one, your maid will take exceptional pride in her flavourful spicy cooking. In some, you will be saved from having to speak freely to a bewilderingly large number of people everyday about deeply personal matters, but in others, you needs must justify your english-speaking skills and your knowledge of european culture. Threading is cheaper in some and unheard of in others, but they use hair-nets to streak your hair in the a few.  In some, men will stand in queues for you, and insist on dropping you home, in others, they will open doors. In some you will have a spot of tea, in some, tea is chai and you will be encouraged to dip most things into it, and in others, its a choice between a soy chai latte or green tea with red beans. Some days only filter coffee will do and then what will you do? In some, everyone will be your brother or sister unhesitatingly; in others, you must jump through many hoops before you become a friend. In some, you are a size ten, and your hips and arches are compatible with the forms of desirable female bodies laid out numerically on racks. In some, you are large and your chest is too big and they have nothing pretty for you to wear, while in others, your tailor will ask matter-of-factly, if you want "padding". Your freedom in each is determined by different entities, in some, it is a travel pass and a work permit, in others, it is a car.

Cities reflect values, and identities borrow from the same values that a city allows itself to be shaped by, so there is, in some sense, a limitation on whom you can be, and how far you can take that whom until it ends in ugly consequences. Most cities have some common values and I gladly bask in their safe anonymity, collecting labels to define my space; new-to-delhi, madrasi, girl, heterosexual, modern, vakil, english-speaking, wine-drinker - and for the most part, they work, but I am greedy and I am pushy and I have a maid, and a whole lot of time on my hands and I want MORE. Sometimes, I sit on my ratty broken sofa and think about the fact that nothing occupies the hole in my life that laundry and work used to fill. Jalebis, besan bondas, shiny jewellery and culturally similar companions can only take you that far ahead. Blogging is a sketchy replacement, but its the best I can come up with, and so, here I am.

I'm trying to have a good time in Delhi, but cultural baggage weighs me down. Expectation slaughters my timid explorations into the unknown and I worry that I am all delhi-ed out, that the city is not, to me, a shehron ka sheher, a riot of colour and humour or a capital city that is joyously contrary but merely a crumbling, dusty edifice that is bursting its seams, crime-ridden and is polluted and gender-biased. Regardless, I am here for a while yet, and we shall have to see how this story ends. :)

Like always, welcome, gentle reader.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


In the few days since the beginning of this new year (a year, btw, that has wholly different digits, something that didn't happen since 1987) I've come across some excellent statement material. One is particular, stayed with me, and I wanted to share - not merely because it is ironifunny (ironically funny)

Now, you see, statement material is very different from pithy, sarcastic material, though good statement material is both pithy and sarcastic. Its not merely that. Its more than the sum of pithy and sarcastic words. Like Golpalott's Third Law. (I re-read all of Harry Potter during the holidays, along with every depressing article I could lay my hands on about the Delhi rape).

(On a separate note, look how bad my sentence structuring becomes when I don't blog for a few months...sheesh).

Anyway, I thought'd I share that statement, and let you enjoy your gentle introduction to bloggy verision 1.4, I think.

  "You might as well just put "If you're white, male, first-world and straight, it's your fault in some way" on the front page every day and be done with it."