Yeh sheher meri jaan
Iska naam hai meri peehechaan
Dilli hai meri jaan
(this city is my life, it’s name is my identity, delhi is my life)
I loved that song, not just because it was nice, but because I FELT IT. Never in my life had I felt like I fitted with people my age who weren’t related to me. Never had I felt like I belonged, like I was happy.(The next time I was to feel like that was with New York, and then again, in 2009, with Hyderabad.) So the song became like an anthem for me.This is largely why, when I decided it was time to move, that I decided on Delhi.
Lots of shit went down in the three years I was in college, with the worst of it hitting bang in the middle of my final exams for the second year. One of my most vivid memories of third year, when I was living in a different place is of going back home for our housewarming in August, about a month after college started that year. I had landed back in Delhi the previous night; my uncle had had me picked up and I’d spent the night in their house. I was going to leave for college in the morning, and my parents called. And I stood in the pantry, on the phone, sobbing my heart out, because there was at that point nothing I wanted to do less than be back in Delhi.
This weekend I went home after eight months. I hadn’t realized how long it had been until I thought about it, and it struck me. And I was deliriously happy to be home, to see my bewdas. I went on my first ever road trip, and had a truckload of fun. I lounged about in my ebony recliner in the verandah and read manuscripts. I demanded various foods for various meals and feasted on them. I could have burst with well-being, and I was so ready to come back and tackle all the shit that I have to tackle in Delhi.
I was worried how I’d deal with leaving, but then I ran into a dear friend at the airport and we flew together, which was lovely. I cried a bit when we took off, because on some visceral level I felt like I was leaving safety behind (yes, I have realized I don’t feel safe in Delhi, I don’t feel like anyone would notice much or care unless something dramatic happened to me, that there’s no one to take the wheel once in a while and steer this exceedingly convoluted course*). But I was expecting this and it passed and I proceeded to yak and giggle and generally have a good flight. But then, once the pilot announced we were beginning our descent, this WEIGHT began to descend. I swear to God, I have been breaking out in hives. And I found myself nearly gibbering with the need to TURN THE PLANE AROUND AND GO BACK HOME.
And then I got home to find more shit to deal with and I wanted nothing more than to just curl up in bed and cry for my mommy, an impulse I admirably resisted. But it made me flash back to nearly exactly ten years ago. And it made me think about how, perhaps, the way there is just this constant insidious resistance to my settling down in Delhi, maybe it means I should just leave. Maybe it means that in a year I should talk to my boss and ask if I can be moved back to south India somewhere, where I can run home on weekends and find the strength to hold myself together.
*This is not true of course, I do have friends here, Glare and Lithium, and they do most certainly care, and would most certainly help me with the little things if I asked for it. But is it justified to make someone disrupt their life and commute large distances just because you’re sick of trying to get your gas and stove up and running, and every morning you find one more small yet vital thing that needs to be fixed or dealt with, and you’re totally capable of dealing with it, but you’re just so fucking tired and it’s been like this for three months?