Sunday, 16 September 2012

"If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?"

Yes, I am looking at you through tinted lenses, coloured with emotion and all those bittersweet memories that we have accumulated through the years. I do it without shame or apology. You are so beautiful in this light, with the rain pouring on you and the street lights filtering through the drops.

I remember the first day we met. It was blistering hot and you annoyed me. I despised you from my very core. Your food, the people you entertained and your million shades of hot and cold; it was a potpourri of awful. I wanted you out of my sight. I didn't have a choice though, and I tolerated you. I was stuck. I hated it. Everything around seemed to be coated in a film of dark dust – the beggars moving across traffic signals, the dented BMWs and Marutis, the roadside greenery and most of all, every single person’s mood.

It takes time with you, everyone knows this. Your first impression is your worst and leaves a sour taste in the mouth. But then you do these things, these hard-to-notice things that quietly but surely woo anyone who has gotten to know you. You are drenched wet in history - bricks and pavements that tell stories from centuries ago. Your branches reach out into these grimy skies and at the same time, your roots are planted in an earth that a nation's leaders built cities upon. Your mood swings have become a part of your charm, rather than a point of irritation. You wear your myriad dresses with equal grace, whatever the season. The fiery red of autumn and the white clean of the monsoon look just as stunning on you as the chilled blue of winter or the brilliant gold of summer. It is as if everyone in contact with you changes and moulds to fit the different your different personalities. You are a haughty queen that commands everyone's attention with your bold architecture and sprawling lawns.

No, you will not budge. You will bake us dry in the glare of your sunshine and you will chill us to the bone with a misty breeze. It is up to us whether we want to tolerate it or not, whether it is worth all that trouble just to be around you. Invariably it is, and we stay. You know this better than anyone and you take advantage of it.

Behind that dusty and well-worn veil you hide not only your mystic and conniving smile, but also a pair of dark and vehement eyes; eyes that have seen glory and gore in equal measure. You are as strong as you are stubborn. Your history and the millions of men and women you have been home to gives each person in your arms a certain sense of anonymity. This was my favourite part.

Because you are such a large entity, it is so difficult to know all of you. It reminds me of the story of the three blind men and the elephant. Each one of them felt a different part of the elephant and hence gave a different description of what an elephant is. It's just the same with you. Everyone has a different account about their relationship with you, disjoint and unrelated, making a skewed and distorted image of you as a whole. But each and every one ends up being hopelessly smitten if they stay long enough.

I can't bear to leave you tonight. As you look at me with those hardened eyes, my mind flits back to the lawns and the monuments and all the delicious food. It goes back to the friends I have made, the people I have loved and lost, the pain and the sweat and the shivering. I remember everything and I find it difficult to clear my throat and tell you how very much I will miss you. Because it's cannot be moulded into words, or feelings or tangible things.

Delhi, you have been Home for a long time now. I have cursed you, I have wept heavy tears because of you and I have also lived some of the best years I have ever had, cosy in your arms. You were some ride, and I promise this isn't goodbye. All those lessons you've taught me the hard way I will use. Although I never grew up with you, I still feel like you are now a part of me. You quietly stole a little bit of me to keep for yourself and that empty space left behind inside me you have occupied without invitation. I never knew how you did it, I never will. I try and remember all the reasons I hated you to muster up the courage to walk away from you.

Goodbye, my mistress. It's been a pleasure knowing you. Wait for me.