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?