Monday, April 19, 2010

Delhi : There is always place for one more!

Delhi is daily explored by millions of eyes, perceived in new ways by every mind and thousands of articles, books and blogs try to frame Delhi in their own words. So being in Delhi for long, I could not stop myself from writing a short ode to this great place in my own words.

For me Delhi has never been just a place but a living organism. I know it is an organism for many but then the personality of this organism is what defines Delhi for me. It’s daring, it’s individualistic and above all it’s “accommodating”. “Space for just one more” defines Delhi for me.

The up and down going lifts are so omnipresent in Delhi malls and the housing societies. You get into one, suddenly 2-3 more people press the open switch and get in. Then some more get in while the life is just about to lift. Then, some more… Then the 2-3 earlier people realize that the lift is going up rather than the way they intended it to go: “down”. In such a pressed situation, they find humor and say, “Koi nahi, baad main jagah nahi milegi!” And then 2-3 more try to get in, although they find no space except shifting vertically or just accommodating by breathing in! As the lift cries “overweight!!” the new entrants look around for those who are not able to bear the press and body heat. And definitely they get a few mere mortals who alas think of using the stairs to go up using the stairs.

Driving in wide Delhi roads is a pleasure, but the real fun is down the narrow bends and busy streets. Even the cycle riders drive with so much passion for speed and thrills that it is a must watch. The rickshaw pullers park their vehicles with pride on the middle of the roads just to get his hourly dose of Gutka. There are surely more daring stuntmen on Delhi roads than on the X- Games till date. And amidst all this one has to maneuver the car with the best skills at hand. Suddenly one may find someone bringing the car from the opposite side (I mean the wrong side of the road :) ), but it will not be his fault since he was only trying to save some petrol (One has to understand since he was driving a gas guzzling SUV all alone!!). And you may be at fault if you try to show anger or don’t give way to this another simple Dilliwalla, since you are not trying to adjust. Try to give some space yaar!

Metro is a real boon for Delhi. It is such a delight to enter an air conditioned medium of travel for going around to places in this sweltering heat. Gone are the days when killer buses were the main mediums of traveling besides maintaining a population check. With the metro, the least expected was some decency. And one is not disappointed; surprisingly Dilliwallahs do show some decency once on the metro platforms. After listening to the repeated announcements, the crowd does allow the people getting down, the first chance. But then, the impatiens creeps in, in milliseconds. Some people try to squeeze from the sides and others try to make a tunnel through the outgoing crowd. I learnt about the tunneling in VLSI, but it was here that I actually got to see it :P. And not to mention you will again be the culprit if you come in between with these innocent travelers, cause they are only making the way by offering you the first chance.

Another repeated announcement is that, “Please leave the seats reserved for women and elderly passengers”. And yet another accommodation! An elderly woman asks a male passenger sitting on such a seat to please let her sit, and the request doesn’t go unnoticed. She is given a seat :O but only after the man asks his adjacent passenger to shift a bit and make some space :D. Now what’s wrong in that? After all he is such a nice and accommodating Dilliwalla.

Hum jahan khade hote hain line wahin se shuru hoti hai. Another live presentation of this statement is seen everywhere right from the morning Mother Dairy crowds to the PVR movie ticket queues. If there are 10 people, then, not surprisingly 10 lines will be definitely there. The great Q manager is handled no better than the wooden stick on an ice cream, although here is holds nothing. And if at all there is a queue then there will be a body right behind one who is pressing to such an extent that you can feel a second skin on your back. The idea of space between two people, remember the one arm’s distance in school parades, is still unheard of beyond those school parade grounds.

Then there are millions of other instances on every corner which demonstrate this unique personality of Delhi. Two cars stopping right in the middle of the road to discuss something. A truck reversing on the great 6 lane fast traffics; yet another moment of glory for the Schumacher on the Delhi roads to maneuver clear of these obstacles. Traffic police ignoring the cycle riders jumping the red lights. And the greatest of all according to me: zooming the car right in front of a renowned dhaba, calling the vendor with the flick of a hand, ordering a Butter Chicken with 2 Tandoori rotis, rolling back the car windows with AC running on full, putting the Punjabi hip hop music on full blast, rolling down the windows again and shouting, “2 Thumps Up aur ek tandoori bhi laga do”, space for more?? And you got to experience the Surround sound by standing right at the center of all this, that is at the dhaba stall, with around 20-25 such moving discotheques around you. But there is always space for one more :)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Temple of Worship: 2

Boredom on a Sunday morning took us on a small pilgrimage to another temple of worship. This one was in one the busiest places in Delhi and for those who are not aware of busy streets in Delhi it is like walking against the tide with hands and legs tied down. But our will power was just strong enough for us to move ahead and execute the plan. We were in the vicinity of the place looking for a place to park our car, when some one (that too in Delhi!) informed us that the place had its own parking place. We felt luck already in our favour as this was not likely in such a rush hour, our worrisome faces turned upside down into wide grins.

Much to our amazement the parking was not just available but it was free! Now that is what I call a grand welcome in such a place. As we interested the compounds of the temple, we were asked to deposit our shoes in either of the two shoe collection centers. Yet another surprise awaited us as we saw well educated people and old ladies on these counters who not just collected our shoes for deposit but touched them on their foreheads as a worship of gods.

Once we had parted away with our shoes we moved forward towards the temple. A jet of water on the entrance cleaned our feet. And pieces of cloth were made available to us to tie on our heads as a mark of respect. We moved with the other people, and they were not heading directly for the temple but towards a stall. We moved with them and found that prasadam was available to be given as chadawa inside the temple.

Finally we made our way to the main entrance of the temple with our hands joined together in due respect and prasadam held in between. We were hypnotized by a faint music being played inside as we reached the doors. It was not just the coolness of the air inside but this aura emanating from an omnipresent magnetic source that pulled us apart in all directions. What was left with us was just kindness, love, compassion and respect for everyone and everything around. We moved around aimlessly and sat mesmerized by the music for unknown number of unforgettable moments.

As the temple musicians stood up, we realized that the music had come to an end way earlier. It was just the smiles and the laughter around which kept the rhythm flowing. As we stood up we were directed by some people to have some food in the common room. And here we saw astonishing scenes as we sat among hundreds of fellow humans, all looking to share joy and good life rather than just eat food. A surge of around 100 more people was not a problem for this place as more carpets were rolled down and more plates were put forward. No one was denied the entrance to this feast. It is difficult to please the taste buds of everyone, I was sure that everyone would be left asking for more. But I was again in for a surprise as no one was left without having a stomach full and some even had their Tiffin full for those at home.

We returned from this trip to find a new life in our selves. I cannot define what was so great about this place. Sometimes one cannot feel where one is, or what one is there for, or what time of the day it is, or as a matter of fact what one actually is. One is left as a fearless spark of life capable of lighting up the world with it power of love. I came out of this place believing I was one such spark of life!

Temple of Worship: 1

We entered the premises of this place of worship and were welcomed by knowledgeable children running around asking them to be hired as guides for the tour. Surprisingly, it was the school hour and these children were, may be, too knowledgeable for the schools too. Helplessly and with exactly the same reasons we go for free credit cards, we had to hire one of these buzzing children to guide us. And the results were almost the same, we got not one but 2-3 guides free alongside.

The main temple was not to be seen without bowing our heads to various other temples on the way. Surely, India has millions of gods, and may be the highest in terms of gods per square kilometer too! The key people of these temples of worship were excited to see the first disciples (or the first customers) of the day. Suddenly they into action! As if the Maharaja himself was on the rounds, we were given utmost respect and were asked our names. Surprisingly, next in their questionnaire was the name of our hometown, place of birth, mother’s name, father’s name…. Our confusion ended with the end of his chant, “And now Shrimaan Ankush will pay Rs. 100 as prasadam”. I said,”…”. Yes, this had me speechless, I had only heard about this, now witnessed it first hand. I said, “I don’t have it.” He asked, “How much do you have?” I said, “Rs. 20”. Another chant and I was lesser by Rs. 20 in my wallet. The priest felt victorious, after all his gods really pleased “him” for the day.

Meanwhile, our guides were running around playing hide and seek. As we asked them to take to our main destination, we were again taken aback. The guides pointed to the direction and said they are not allowed there, so we have to now cover the rest of the enlightening journey by ourselves. Thankfully we were guided not to take in our cameras and mobile phones inside the main temple. And of course we owed them the fees. Now, their faces now seemed to emanate the same aura as the priests inside.

As we walked on, we felt that the journey was yet to begin. We were suddenly surrounded by a feeling of fear. There were policemen all around, some smiling, some just chattering around sipping tea and some chewing gutka. And, we had some eyes following us down to the corner of the street.

The security check-post was another beginning. First we passed through our classic metal detectors. I think they are made up of 2 things: an old door frame which was found inappropriate for houses and a beeper which beeps whenever someone passes across. Some technology! And when there is a detector, the next security person surely passes his hands around on your private parts. And the awful feeling is not because of the feeling of the hands but rather because of the smell from his mouth which is a fermented mix of gutka, tea and the aloo paranthas of yesterday. And, God only help you, if he doesn’t burp straight into your mouth.

I thought the worst was over. We were herded into a metal cage tunnel. It was a long tunnel made up of metal mesh of around 7 ft. height and 4ft. wide. The twists and turns took us into another security check! Again, the metal detectors. And, again the hand frisking! I tried to clam myself as I thought that this is nothing to visit the greatest holy place. This time my wallet was also to be tortured. Toilet paper was examined by the security personnel as if I was about to blow the place with it. And finally he decided to throw it away. And we were pushed further into the maze of metal mesh.

We had a great view in sight now: an army, many more policemen, and some old ladies who could not walk fast and were fat enough to block the 4ft wide metal tunnels. Although our minds resented the idea of coming to this place, our hearts were full of compassion and love for god to overcome all this. We heard the ladies chanting slowly and we tried to join in and motivate them forward.

And, here it came, the 3rd security check! I felt like running back but to my dismay I could see the metal tunnel on my back. Metal detectors! Hand frisking! Wallet checking! And this time, my driver’s license in a plastic cover was an issue. The license was Indian so it was passed across but the plastic cover could be “a potential weapon” so it was retained back. Move on…

We moved on with the crowd. Now, all points of discussion were also over between us. And, finally came the moment of enlightenment. As the metal passage expanded from 4ft wide to around 10 ft wide our attention was caught by the big artillery pointing toward us from our left hand side. There was also a big security of around 15-20 men and women pushing people further. We heard them shouting to the group of ladies before us, “Idhar kya dekh rahi ho? Right mein dekho aur Badte jao. Chaliye maaji, keval aapke liye nahi khola hai” (What are you seeing here? See to your right, and move on. Move on mother, this is not open only for you”). Yes we were also “privileged” to see the “God” on our “right” with our own “worldly” eyes. God was visible for only about 1-2 seconds but it such was a “glorifying” experience!