Delhi of my Childhood

The third guest post is courtesy Purba Ray. She is quite a name in the blog world. My first interaction was when I happened to check her blog via Indiblogger. After commenting on each others posts and exchanging one line emails, we finally added each other on GTalk. A teacher(in the good old days), mother, health freak, stylish shopaholic and a witty blogger 🙂

Even though I am a true blue Bong, I hardly had any relatives in Kolkata, till I got married. My Dad is from Lucknow, Maa from Kanpur and I was born and brought up in Delhi.

For someone who has spent a little over four decades in the city, I have seen Delhi metamorphose from a laid-back Punjabi by nature city to a bustling, chaotic Punjabi at heart metropolis. Oh, what a transformation it has been- whether for better or for worse, is matter for another long debate.

As a child, recreation would mean boating in boat club, followed by ice cream at India Gate and watching performances at the city’s many cultural spots. And we watched movies in large, single screen cinema halls. Chanakya was meant for English movie buffs. I remember the time, when my parents had gone to watch The Exorcist at Priya. Their ride back home, well past midnight, on that lonely stretch in Vasant Vihar, was way more scary than the movie. And now Vasant Vihar is a constant cacophony of blaring horns and frayed tempers.

Karol Bagh was THE place to shop and South Delhi had yet to acquire its glamorous avatar. I had my first taste of butter chicken, Delhi’s national bird at a restaurant in Daryaganj. I hated it – found it too sour for my taste. Delhi was all about Mughlai and Punjabi Khana and if you wanted to try something exotic, it was the posh 5 star hotels you headed to. Does anyone remember Akbar hotel, one of Delhi’s earliest five star establishments? it shut shop long time ago. All I can recollect is the colourful chains of bangles that would hang from its ceiling. I would watch in fascination at the light dancing off those colourful pieces with my head craned up, my fingers dug deep inside the sofa. Eating was not a priority then.

The capital was uncluttered, traffic jams were unheard of and the ridge was a scary, badly lit, eerie stretch which we avoided at night. Buddha Jayanti park had yet to acquire its current seedy avatar. It was where families went for picnics and perhaps later in the evening, a haunt for lovers desperate to coochie coo. Haryana was where we went for day trips during the winter break. I remember busloads of us heading to Surajkund / Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary/Sohna/Badkhal Lake. The halwai would prepare an elaborate lunch for us, while we kids would get busy trying to lose our Frisbee and getting our knees scraped.

Prateek thinks I am no longer qualified to write about Delhi. I have been living in Gurgaon for over six years now, but hey, am still part of the NCR. Yes, Delhi is no longer just Old and New Delhi, but now spreads over the satellite towns of Noida, Gurgaon Faridabad, Ghaziabad and other surrounding areas. The caterpillar has yet to transform into a beautiful butterfly. But despite the CWG mess, it almost looks chic. Innumerable flyovers crisscross the city, one can often hear the metro’s rumble overhead, the roads are wider and yet all we need is an hour of heavy downpour, to bring this aspiring world class city down on its knees. People whizz around in their Lexus, only to stop at signals and see that child in rags, covered with grime, folding his hands, his eyes pleading.

We shop in swanky malls in our Calvin Klein’s, check out the latest accessories at the DKNY store, yet uninterrupted supply of electricity and water remains a dream for us. We have learnt to survive on jugaad- we buy mammoth generators to counter load shedding, install heavy duty water pumps to tide over Jal Boards’ ineptitude and bribe our way through sarakari apathy. We Delhites always manage to find a way out of misery.

If you ask me for a single word that defines Delhi, I won’t be able to come up with it. It is a city of startling contrasts – it is loud, boisterous, snooty, brash, rude and it’s kitne ka liya culture gets on my nerves. But it is enterprising with a never die spirit, large hearted, vibrant and majestic. I love it when it glams up during the festive season and comes to life in winters. Strolling on Janpath sipping cold coffee at Deepauls, the air resonating with loud cries of hawkers selling export rejects, driving through Lutyens Delhi-a mute reminder of Delhi’s it’s past, discovering nuggets from history in an unassuming corner of the city and pointing out 100 year old havelis to my daughter, as we meander through the bye lanes of Chandni Chowk…..this is Delhi for me.

20 Responses to “Delhi of my Childhood”
  1. delhizen says:

    A very comprehensive post on Delhi…. and Patty, don’t you know Once a Delhizen always a Delhizen :), right Purba?

    you must have had butter chicken at Moti Mahal… it is very close to where I live. and next time you plan to explore purani dilli especially for food do let me know 🙂

    • Purba says:

      Delhizen for life….

      I’ve had Butter Chicken at Moti Mahal (who hasn’t).
      Would love to do a Purani Dilli tour with you. The food there is to die for.

  2. Sapna says:

    Nice post Purba. You’ve brought out the contrasts really well 🙂

  3. BullsEye says:

    Great post Purba, aptly defining a city with a distinct personality of its own. I was in delhi for about 7 days for my MBA interviews in 2006 and although it is a short time to know a city, i still loved it. Wide roads, long distances, Metro, PVR saket, South campus, CP, Palika bazaar. Loved the way how pollution is tried to be controlled by CNG buses n autos. And yaa the cuchikoo thing was told to me by a autowala abt Budha jayanti park as well 😉 Loved the city,people and the food.

  4. nice! a really good read 🙂
    i’ve never been to Delhi though. but i can see how much you have enjoyed the place where you live 🙂

  5. Pzes says:


    You make me want to come to Delhi, really soon! 🙂 Superb!

  6. Mayur says:

    Dilwalon ka Sheher! Nice, Nice… Purba, Akbar ki yaad dila di tumne. Although I haven’t spent too much time in Delhi, I always had a connection.

  7. My roommate was talking about Delhi when he was there for some business purpose and now your post.. i think i too have to visit Delhi very soon.

  8. Kartikay says:

    Sheila Dixit should hire you for such good PR!

    [Maybe its time for us Bangaloreans to write one too!] (I consider myself Bangalorean even though most will raise an eyebrow!)

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