Dear Dusty Delhi,

How are you doing? Hope all the furor over smog has lessened and you are breathing easier? Is it already cold now or is the famous chill a.k.a Dilli ki sardi still yet to settle in? Do you still have visibility problems in winter or on foggy winter mornings can neighbours see each other from across narrow residential lanes? It has been long since I have visited you and I happen to miss you very much, especially in winter. You are truly a city worth being the capital of the mega subcontinent of a ticking bomb called India and there is no place I would rather be, than in Delhi in winter. There is something about you and the bone chilling season which makes me crave for you. Perhaps it stems from my nearly a decade of living with you right after I turned 18 or all those years of transiting through you for my journeys to distant lands. Mumbai has its pace, Kolkata its artsy uppity nature and Chennai, its traditions; but in my eyes, they pale in comparison to you since, you have in you, all of the above rolled into one behemoth of a city spreading across three states.

So what makes you, Delhi so nice in winter? Is it because during this season, the piping hot, delicious and fiery khorode ka soup sold by an old Punjabi man at Lajpat Nagar can be enjoyed for a few pennies…or the famous Amritsari fried fish being churned out at nearly every corner of the city while platters of hot moist momos at Dilli Hat cast whiffs of delightful steam and vegetable sellers push carts heaped with beautiful winter greens especially sarson {mustard greens} and bathua {amaranth}? Food forms an integral part of the reason as to why I love Delhi so much and the capital citizens truly know how to enjoy good food. I miss Delhi‘s cold evenings, when after shopping at Janpath or overcrowded Sarojini Nagar, I would head to PVR Saket for people watching and cups of delicious coffee topped with generous sprinkling of cocoa. The coffee used to quite good there and people watching in Delhi is always a lot of fun. Unlike busy Mumbai and Bangalore, India‘s capital city indulges in the passion of people watching ardently and it is a place where you dress up to see and to be seen. In my nearly a decade of living in Delhi, I have seen this passion to be uniformly practised through the length and breadth of the city and I have lived localities in nearly direction.

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A magnificent old capital

Another charming memory of my Delhi winters is the glamour of its weddings. The capital city hosts some very show stopping weddings and it has a culture which loves to flaunt. So, these big fat events come with a lot of glamour and hoopla and the starry skies see angeethis (charcoal braziers) blazing bright all night to warm merry men and brave women. Downing huge pints of whiskey, the charming gentlemen of Delhi woo the city‘s courageous lovelies, who flaut their soft Punjabi beauty in weather defying sparkly garments. Their sarees would be stylishly gauzy enough, to put Bollywood starlets to shame and at a time when cold wave would reportedly claim lives throughout Northen India, these brave ladies would show off unbelievably generous portions of bare backs, arms and waists. I have always considered people watching in Delhi to be one of the most fun things to do in the city, but nothing beats the joy of seeing some of the most funnily ostentatious signs or stickers plastered on really fancy cars. Delhi is a city of movers and shakers and here nearly everybody is related to someone scarily powerful. Showing off of wealth and clout is one of Delhi‘s pet peeves and I say this with no pun intended. A lot of the city cars bear proof of this modesty and bold stickers claiming the owner to be ‘Son of MP (member of Parliament), ‘Singh is King‘ flash dramatically along with pounding beats of new age Bhangra/Bhanga Hip Hop which usually pour out from them.

If all these mentions of power and ostentatious glamour put you off, then let me take a step back to apologise and assure you that Delhi has a very subtle and earthy side to it as well. This can be keenly felt in winter, when the season brings out its floral beauty to the max. Every nook and corner of the city turns into a garden of Eden and beautiful fresh flowers of all kinds and sizes are sold from plastic buckets. Their scents permeate the dusty polluted cold air and I love Delhi during this time. In my eyes, it is a perfect prelude to balmy spring when Chanakyapuri‘s big flowering trees get bedecked with blossoms and the air becomes silky soft again. Then, there is the aroma of freshly peeled “keenu” or tangerines and panjiri, which grannies all across Delhi love to sample and share. Snugly tucked in woollens, these matriarchal pillars bask in the winter sun and happily dish out winter goodies, juicy gossip and advice. Delhi afternoons at its residential lanes ring with their crinkled, patient voices and pure Punjabi language flows like a river. They often reminiscence of Lahore, Sindh and of memories, they had left behind many years ago. It is of a world, which is now gone forever and which has shaped Delhi into what it is today. That generation form an integral part of Delhi, because the city has nurtured on their soul, on their hopes, pain and struggles and they have lent it an essential part of its character. Thus, someone has truly said, that Delhi forgives, but never forgets. I can go on and on professing my love for Delhi and this post dedicated to the glorious capital of India.

Controversial, glamorous, earthy and powerful, with not a single subtle bone in its body, it is truly, as William Dalrymple mentions a “City of Djinns”.

P.S – I love you, Delhi.

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Delhi is an experience.

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Modern

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Yet traditional

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Congested

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Yet with a strange

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Sense of space.

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The gorgeous

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Delhi is a complicated

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And controversial city.

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It can be quiet

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Restive

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Intricate and

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And very charming.

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Love it or hate it

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You just cannot ignore it.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE