Monday, October 29, 2007

Missing Delhi - Again

I feel like going to Delhi. It will be so nice there just now - the beginning of winter, the faint chill in the morning, Diwali just around the corner. Yup, I'm going to miss Delhi much more in the winters than in the summers.

It's hard to realize that Delhi is still going on without me. Every day, people must be going about their humdrum Delhi lives like I used to - stand at the bus stops I used to stand at, wait for the buses I used to wait for, take the metro to college like I used to, curse the heat as I used to, make plans to meet friends at Dilli Haat or Priya or Anzal's, or go to Kamala Nagar or.. Gosh, there's that feeling in my stomach again, the one I love and hate at the same time, the bitter-sweetness of nostalgia.

I don't miss college: I promised myself that I wouldn't, and I don't. But I miss the Delhi atmosphere. Delhi was the first city I fell in love with, the first city I half-discovered for myself, the first city whose pulse I thought I knew, though I suppose I was aware even then that I was wrong: there are so many Delhi's that it's impossible to know even half of them.

The best thing about Delhi is that she will take in anyone. Anyone can find some spot for themselves, in some part of the city, in some community or the other. Delhi will not accept you easily; you will be made to go through her initiation rituals. Whether you find them rigorous or not depends upon you; God knows I went through a trial by fire. Strangely enough, each Delhi you discover requires you to go through a different ritual, but each of these Delhi's brings you closer to the core of the city, so it's like peeling away the onion skins one by one, only there's no end to this particular onion.

I just went through all my Delhi posts. Darn, now I really am nostalgic. I want to go back NOW. I want to do street-shopping. I want to eat at Wenger's. I want to travel on the Metro. I want to go Sunday shopping with my parents to C. P. I want to make plans to go for lunch to Noodle's or Momo Point in Kamala Nagar. I want to travel by DTC buses. I want to haggle with auto-wallahs. I want to peer into the fog for the morning U-special (Ah, U-specials!). I want to go to Deer Park for a walk. I want to feel the wind in my face while travelling by bus on the Delhi roads. I want to see the red stone of South Block; the President's House, India Gate. I want to do the college-home commute once more; no, many times more - once by U-special, once by the Metro, once only by bus. I want to spend an afternoon at Dilli Haat, watch the dusk come on, see the string of balloons going up into the sky, see the colours, hear the plaintive wail that guy with the musical instrument makes. I want to see kites being flown from roof tops. I want to lie on my bed and watch through the window as aeroplanes come in to land at the airport. I want to drink banta for five bucks at Sarojini. I want to see fruits and vegetables lit up by yellow light at street markets. I want to travel in a bus by night, watching the people outside. I want to return home from shopping, loaded with bags and bags of clothes. I want to relive the laughter, the jokes, the friendship.

Strange to realize that all these things are in my head, that all of them can never be again, that even if I go back, I will be a different person, so all of these things will be different. My house was emptied, someone else is probably staying there now. The sunlight will be the same, the wind, the noise from outside, but all those rooms are furnished that way only in my memory now. How strange.
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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sunrise at Dimna Lake

Nine bikes - one ride in the darkness, through narrow winding roads, braving potholes and speed breakers, to watch sunrise at Dimna Lake.

I'd been to Dimna Lake twice before. The first time, I slipped and fell in, and my mp3 player died on me. The second time, I spent an entire day inside it, and rediscovered the joy of being at ease in water, letting it take over my body. This time was different again.

There were nine bikes and sixteen riders. I was riding behind Ninja, which was good, because I'd ridden with him before, and I didn't worry as much as I would have with someone unknown. Though my biggest anxiety, I have to admit, was that I would fall asleep on the bike; we'd gone out for dinner the night before, and I'd slept at three, to wake up at four.

We started off at four-thirty, with the aim of making it to Dimna by sunrise. The whole ride took less than half an hour, even with stoppages, so the more experienced among us were dissatisfied. But for a novice rider like me, it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

Out of the b-school, and off through the mostly empty roads of The 'City' to Mango Bridge. And then riding through the darkness of the winding roads, surrounded by trees on both sides, and the looming deeper black of hills half-seen, with only the blurred red lights of the bikes ahead to keep you company. There was wind, and cold, but I didn't feel it much, because of the sheer exhilaration of travelling at high speed in a bike through the darkness.

Dimna at dawn is an amazing sight. The lake and the surrounding hills are grey, and fog hangs heavy on top of the water. It curls around the trees on the surrounding hills, and makes them look like graveyards with tall grave-stones. When we reached, the light was just starting to flow in, and the grey lightened by the minute. There was a black irregular shadow on the water, under the fog, but I couldn't figure out what it was, and then someone enlightened me - it was the reflection of the hills above, black against the lightening sky.

We walked on to the dam, and I reminisced about my disastrous fall into the lake. The world was lightening slowly, but we wondered if we would see a proper sunrise, because of the fog. The sky was a multi-coloured haze, the red at the horizon fading into grey. It was beautiful. The fog was lifting slowly. Wisps of it were travelling about the water. Watching the phenomenon was a skin-crawling experience, because it looked like a purposeful battalion of newly-dead souls, passing over to the other side.

People kept taking pictures of everything, trying to capture the moment, the beauty of the place, but it was quite impossible, of course. And as an aside, I think they were so busy trying to capture the moment that they lost out on the actual enjoyment of it.

There were people practising yoga on benches by the path. We asked one of them to take a group pic. And just as the photo-taking session ended, Shivi looked up and said, "Ah, there's the sun. Finally!" And indeed, there it was, a pale orange thing wreathed in fog. But it slowly came up, and the orange deepened, until it looked like a blood red coin hanging in the sky. It was reflected in the water, too, twice over, so that there were three suns.

A few minutes of watching the sun and clicking pictures, and it was time to go back. The ride back home was faster, and scarier - more traffic, more people, more pot-holes. It didn't bring the same level of exhilaration as the night ride, but I'd enjoyed myself so thorougly that it didn't matter; I was content.

Here's a pic of the people who went, minus me and a classmate, because we were the ones clicking.

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