Monday, June 6, 2011

Agar yeh Dilli hota….

By Aswathy Kumar

When people ask me which part of the country I belong to, the first city that comes to my mind is Dilli. Okay I am a pure-bred hard core Malayali…no doubt about that. But I have always felt a strange connection to Delhi. I have lived there only seven years as compared to 18 years that I spent in my home town of Thiruvanathapuram, but still when I exit the Indira Gandhi International Airport and into the sea of aggressive taxi walas and honking cars I experience a strange feeling of welcome…that I am finally home.
A little bit of Delhi aggression is what the city of Nairobi need
Agreed… It’s not easy to love Delhi. I myself  was never a big fan of the scorching heat that always give you the feeling that you are down with a viral or the peak winters that pinch at your skin every time you step out of the house. The over-crowded DTC buses that with a vengeance refuse to stop at the swanky glittery bus-stops, the auto-rickshaws that never care two hoots about traffic rules, the street hawkers that swarm your car every time you halt at the red light and the similar looking houses that practically stick to each other are all things that you love to hate about Delhi. And working for a department where your main job is to report a stooping electricity pole, a potholed road, illegal parking and encroachments…loving Delhi was even more difficult for someone like me.
So you can imagine my excitement when my husband told me that we were moving to Nairobi. I was more than happy to bid adieu to our water-less house in Shivalik, the dingy kitchen that overlooked the wall of the next house and our sardar neighbor who happily parked one his five cars outside our gate every single day.
Life was going to be great…away from the madness, the pollution and the ever-so impatient Delhiites. Or so I thought?
Now what do I say about Nairobi? It’s picturesque, serene, great weather…a perfect blend of a quaint hill station and a metropolitan…a cosmo city surrounded by the rawness of the savannah. More than for its sheer beauty I was glad that I no longer had to run to the the Kooda wala every morning with the garbage bag or lie flat on the ground to see if water was filling up in my bore well (Yup! my landlord forgot to instill a direct-line tap and this was the only way to know when we got our share of municipal water).
In Nairobi I have a beautiful house, some good neighbors who never fail to show up at my doorstep with a plate of cupcakes or other mouth-watering African delicacies and most importantly some peace and quiet after a very long time.
But just a few days in this calm city and I realized that maybe it was not what I wanted after all. I missed Delhi, the arrogant rickshaw drivers outside Malviya Nagar, the ever-so annoying noise made by the subzi walas and mostly the streets of Delhi where everybody considered themselves to be somebody important. I missed the chaos, the noise and the madness.
Nairobi is great…The problem however for a crazy Delhiite like me starts when you leave the four walls of my apartments and into the city roads….These main roads of Nairobi, measuring just about 6mts in width are mostly single lane… Agar yeh Dilli hota (If this was Delhi), these so-called roads might have been rightly referred to as galis aka alleyways. But here…they are the main roads, the only ones leading you to you required destination.
Another striking feature of this city which is almost undigestible for a Delhiite like me is how the cars here can stand in a line for hours and hours, patiently waiting for every single person in front to find an apt parking space or finish a call on his mobile or even chat with a fellow driver passing by.
Believe me here in Nairobi you might be rushing to a hospital emergency or a job interview that might determine what your future holds for you. But if the person in front of you decides to go at 20kmh…then all you do is simply follow. You don’t honk, show no sign of aggression but simply tag along. It’s these times when I get stuck behind some laid back driver moving at snail pace on a practically empty road that I wish that I was back in Delhi.
Kyun ki Agar yeh Dilli hota…firstly there wouldn’t have been the question of waiting…coz if this was Delhi, a flyover would have sprung up at every corner…so that you don’t get stuck behind morons who don’t even know the basics of driving…or secondly…if this was Delhi and you were driving like you have all the time in this world, the person behind you would have zoomed ahead and gotten down to teach you a few essentials of driving in his unique Dilli Ishtyle,…lessons you wouldn’t even dare forget.
I recently read somewhere that the best way to solve the traffic problem in Nairobi is to legalize road rage and I couldn’t agree more…A little bit of Dilli-agresssion is exactly what this city needs to help wake up from its slumber…


  1. Good one aswathy, except of weather i love everything of Dilli..miss you guys around..keep writing.