Thursday, December 28, 2006


miso- or mis- pref. Hatred: misogamy
Delhi [(del-ee)] City in north-central India. The nation's capital
ism /Izem/ Pronunciation Key –noun a distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Working with the above definitions, the title is tantamount to a doctrine about contempt for Delhi. A meeting with a few friends of Rishi (of the right sidebar fame) and the impression they carried prompted me into writing this. Let my start with a clarification that I do not hate/dislike Delhi. As a city, it just disturbs me!

I think Delhi is hard on a new-comer not in the Bombay kind of a way. Bombay absorbs you, passes its nervous energy, frenzy, activity to you even before you realize it. Delhi on the other hand is like a hurdle. Either you cross it or you are stuck clueless. In my case, I just stumbled at the hurdle. Even after having spent 17 months cumulatively over the last few years, I still feel that Delhi culture refuses to assimilate me.

The city has a lot going for itself. Delhi has the best infrastructure in the country. I think it has a rich historical heritage. I doubt any other Indian metropolis can come close to Delhi’s historical heritage. Delhi has a cuisine that people around the globe would swear by. Delhi has sirifort, IHC, Auto Expo, Metro and everything else that could make life convenient. Lutyens Delhi is close to what a perfect city would look like. It does give you the heady shot of power. The moment I’d be able to put my name on a small piece of land out there, I would know that I have arrived in life. Delhi does have arguably the best CV amongst Indian cities. However, the party for Delhi has been spoiled by the Delhi culture. People outside Delhi seem to carry a far from good impression of Delhi. The in-the-face aggression, grab-what-you-can-get mentality, short-tempered high-pitched-expletive-laced conversational tone do put you off. It is tough to ignore them in your day to day existence. And on a continued basis they are such a pain in the rear that you are sore all the time.

Over the last 9 years, I have lived in Bombay, Delhi, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Bangalore. I think Delhi has the worst professional work ethic. It is difficult to take your colleagues at face value. The old hierarchical school is still strong in the city. The PSU culture of strong hierarchies pervades the swank interiors of most MNCs in Delhi. Another disturbing aspect of life in Delhi is the avowed hostility against women. I doubt any woman would dare venture alone in most parts of Delhi after dark. Gawking openly is an integral part of the daily ToDo list of the Delhi male.

Dilli-dilwalon-ki! One gets to hear this epithet from the Delhiwallahs all the time. I am yet to experience the warmth of this heart. I have found that a linguistically challenged Chennai can be warmer than Delhi. To allegedly the most exhibitionist of Indian Cities, I would recommend slightly subtle display of material wealth.

Sans the types I have written about, Delhi rocks!


Prashant Modani said...

A regular reader of your posts, I cannot walk away from this one without telling you my reading of the city I love. Yes, some people in Delhi can be aggressive and loud, but as a City, I doubt I can be anywhere else.

Consider two individuals, One lives in South Delhi, (say around Saket area), and works in an aggressive function like Sales, in an aggressive bank like Citibank sees a different Delhi, then a person who’s studying in a college (say SRCC), living in the suburbs (Quieter trans-yamuna area like Mayur Vihar). The city is the same. The lives of these two individuals when they were in Delhi was different, which clouds their perceptions and hence their take on Delhi. If you are in C.R. Park, Delhi will seem like a mini West-Bengal. South Delhi is the “posh” area, where all the rich people live and therefore there is a lot of swanky cars and display of wealth, but go to a mayur vihar or a rohini or the places where normal middle class families live and you would find warmth!

Coming to hostility to women – yes, to an extent I agree – but stop for a moment to notice who the culprits are? It is not the city, but the people in it. What’s gone wrong with Delhi is the huge inflow of masses and masses. Its open to all, as are most metros like Mumbai etc, and it is this huge inflow of people which makes the culture a cosmopolitan one and thereby making every aspect of India live in the heart of Delhi. You don’t see most of these rogues going to Chennai, in-fact you don’t see anyone going to Chennai which explains the slow life and low crime rate there. New York and Chicago, and most big cities of the world have crime. This cannot be a reason to write off a city. It is one of the evils that come as a parcel of being in a big city!

Thanks for writing good things about Delhi too… All I can say is, the next time you are in Delhi, hopefully you and me will hang out more and we can see Delhi through my eyes!

Prateek said...

As I said, you either cross the fence or you do not.

As I have said, without the types I have written about the city rocks! Of course, when I say that the party pooper for delhi is its culture - I am talking about the people. As for the influx of immigrant population, all metros have this problem. I am not comparing apples and oranges here. Incidentally, 7% of Chennai's population now is immigrant! Bombay has the highest incidence of immigrant population. Average resident of that city feels safer than an average resident in Delhi.

One of those Individuals discussed has a striking similarity to me. And yes, I have lived in the 'quieter' trans-yamuna area as well (Mid 2001). I like the southern part better! And thanks to that sales job, I have seen more delhi than many delhites. As a result, most of what I have typed is derived from some direct experience and not hearsay.

Not to say that other cities do not have pain points of their own. As with everything/everyone, there are things that you like and things that you do not. Thats about it! For all I know, I might end up living in the city again. And I know that I would not mind it much!

JeevSingh said...

I made Ishmeet read this one. She being a pucca delhiwali kuri, seem to agree with the hostility against women.

I personally agree with the last line most regarding exhibitionism in Delhi culture (half my family is Delhi based). But I would still love to live in Delhi, the food and Delhi crowd...baat hi kuch aur hain.