Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nostalgia*

She sees them from way off. Blue and white against the night sky, black on yellow, white on green. They're lit up by streetlights, headlights and on the quieter stretches, moonlight. She reads, rolling the words on her tongue, testing them, tasting them.

'Mehrauli'. Open-mouthed, soft-exhaled, palate-brushing. 'Motibagh'. Stronger, tongue-pressed-against-teeth, from the back of the throat. 'Dhaulakuan'. A complete tempest of a word.

The air smells of dust and dried flowers.

'Purani Dilli'. She reads, invoking Dalrymple's djinns. 'Shalimar Bagh', 'Hazrat Nizamuddin', 'Neeli Chatri', 'Kalkaji'. 'Hauz Khaz', 'Sarai Kale Khan' and then, 'Chirag Dilli'. "What an absurdly poetic name for a flyover," she thinks to herself. "Light of Delhi indeed!"

But she can't stop looking out the window, like some country bumpkin, trying to drink in a whole city in a half-hour trip. And her steady, senseless half-smile prompts her cab-driver to finally ask,

"Aap bahut dinon baad aayin hain madam?"

"Haan bhaiyya...kaafi dinon baad."


*Or, How to Make *Anything* Pretty.**
** I give her three days, tops. You?

5 comments:

Sougata said...

I liked Bangalore, though friends tell me that it has grown too quickly for its own good. They tell me that it is too expensive, too crowded, and too polluted. I wonder if the people are still friendly because that is what made Bangalore special in my mind--the wonderful people.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Some of those names were known to Nicholson in 1857. A couple were known to Aurangzeb.

But in this heat, nostalgia may melt in less than three days.

J.A.P.

iz said...

That's exactly what I'm like when I go to Bombay. I keep striking up conversations with cabbies and bus conductors and samosa vendors!

Brown Magic said...

Sentimotional about Delhi? I am checking my "Delhi is my hometown" handbook and it is explicitly written that you may not get sentimotional about Delhi while actually IN Delhi. Sorry CS - that schmoopiness is allowed only when there is great distance between you and Delhi.

Chronicus Skepticus said...

Sougata:
Bangalore is still pretty...in parts. It is getting terribly crowded though.

The people still make it worth it.

J.A.P:
I think you've got it mixed up. Too much sun = insanity = nostalgia.

I'm *still* in tourist mode (I know, I'm horrified too).

Iz: Ah Bombay cabbies/autowalas/vendors tell the best stories!

BM: Oh shush! I am on crazy tourist trip. I will do 'sentimotional' like there is no tomorrow!

But normal programming to resume soon (or I will shoot myself. there's only so much saccharine even my sun-softened brain can handle).