They arranged the ticket. They managed to cook the lunch also. Like as always, My parents and sister managed every possible thing they could to make me feel safe, happy and feel home before I boarded Toofan Express for Delhi. Deep inside they were worried like hell. Mother reads in the newspaper, Delhi is the rape-capital of India. Father was worried, what if I become a spoilt partying child, after mixing with the rich crowd? Sister was busy to explain me the latest designs of soetar I should look for. They repeatedly told me, not to talk with strangers, to to get down in stations, not to leave my seat or not to leave my luggage unattended. I was pretty much annoyed. After all this is a two-tier compartment. Not many people can afford this. Also I am a little nice sweet Bengali girl. Who is going to do anything to me? I bid them farewell and started reading the book I just bought as soon as the strain started moving .
The White Tiger. It was absorbing, frustrating naked truth of what happens regularly in India which is going through a future shock. A shock of westernized culture mixed with Indian repressive social structure. A shock of rich powerful suckers clashing with the raw-mass living like animal daily after their unimaginable underpaid mighty hard-work. A shock of extreme hunger for food vs the extreme greed for money and power. A shock when futuristic technology meets predator-like sensual needs. What happened when a half-baked poor hardworking afraid man reaches his limit of honesty, humanity or other limits? What he can do and chose with his under-developed intellectual ability and survival instinct? How they actually think? What corrupts one’s soul? How one can start a new life of being less beast and more human? Can we do anything about it? How far we can take the responsibility?
I was moved by the book. And a bit scared too about the Delhi-Taxiwalas or other incoming people from for labor, to be honest.
The train journey was ironically frustrating. Toofan chanced its revenge on me for supporting Ms. Banerjee in the past and took 47 hours to reach Delhi, making my family and friends worried like hell. No food was there as no pantry car was there and I was not in a position to leave my luggage and search for something in the stations it halted. I was just praying so that they just deliver me alive irrespective of my co-passenger’s suggestive remarks regarding the dangers lie over a young girl travelling alone.
And then my two weeks started, full with fun in the southern part of the city, with my cousin. The great shopping bonanza, the bright windows, the Hilton Hotels, City Walk, Fashion fiesta in early morning ladies-coach inside Delhi Metro. Life was fun.
All these times till the day I reached there, to me Delhi was Chandni Chawk, Agra (I knew Agra is not much close to Delhi, but I imagined it as nearby), India gate, red fort, all those historically famous places full with stories from Mughal Era. Another two great places i always wanted to go were IIT Delhi (all engineering students who once dreamed about being an IITian will surely understand the reason) and AIIMS (I was fascinated to be a part of it in my high-school days though did not put much effort in reality).
However, once I started roaming around, I did not feel much urge to visit my so-called dream-places. Not because I was too busy in shopping, but because the scary stories i heard about the crowd. One trip to India Gate, one trip to the famous Jan-Path /Central Park/Safardjung Tomb made me wise enough to avoid old Delhi .
Therefore, instead of going for shopping to Chandi Chowk, I chose Sarojini Nagar, and Khan Market. The experience was nice. And I loved the young girls in their twenties or thirties hopping over here and there in Sarojini Maket to pick the latest winter fashion in cheapest price or the talkative Sardarji busy running to Bank of India for last minute drafts who guessed it right that I am a sweet loving Bengali girl. In Kan Market MacD I witnessed a painful family drama, where a Punjabi mother-in-law trying her best to make her sister-in-law understand why she should accept his son’s rude misbehavior and forgive them like a strong Punjabi woman and come back to the in-law’s house instead of going to court. Eavesdropping is a bad manner, but the voices were pretty much loud out of emotion, or the communication of it. And of course I was curious enough to learn how the mother-in-law is going to defend her son beating her daughter-in-law. Though I don’t know much of Punjabi, comprehending it was not much difficult , and at times I was controlling myself for not running into that mother-in-law and shout at her to shut her stupid mouth full with typical “Indian-wife-should-bear” dialog. Then I remembered, we often become weak when we are in love, either with our children or family or a complete stranger, and love can make us a dark person full with hatred and even a hypocrite if we are not awake enough to deal with what we want and what we believe. So, I stopped being a judgmental eavesdropper and concentrated on the lovely crunchy choco- Ice-cream.
The next days were spent in visiting meeting my old folks, IIT Delhi , India Gate , Max, Fortis, AIIMS. Life was depressing , in contradiction to the fun-days spent with my cousin in her house or malls. However, bad time goes by fast when you dream of a good future with your hopes high and I kept on doing that.
On Sunday I went to Gurgaon and learnt a secret: why MGRoad metro toilets are painted in redi.e.why people spit so much in Gurgaon. Once I was out of M.G.Road metro, every single word I wanted to utter to the Auto-wala , my mouth started getting full with more dust and an immense urge to spit, such is the pollution in road with the horrible condition of the traffic. The smell of the gas the autos exhale, trust me, are far worse than I what experienced so far in Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad or Bangalore.
The last two days were nice again. Long walks in nice green roads near Central Delhi. The central government offices, Doctor’s colony, long walks from Khan Market to Udyog Bhawan, AIIMS, Nice road-side Chienese near BJP Main Central Office. Days were spent with a further set of adventures in exploring roads in Central Delhi, or the road from the NDLS railway station to IIT, using bus, auto or just walking. Days spent in meeting new people, helping strangers, eating new food.
The return journey was in Duronto Express. I was too busy in eating the nice “Aloo-Paratha” made by my aunt , other than the “Durdanto” food Duronto was serving. The train reached Howrah around 2:40 p.m. next day. After struggling with the 4 heavy luggage all alone( a sense of independence and how strong –I-Am etc ) and with the dense tired crowd who just reached Howrah like me from various parts of India, I managed to enter into a crowded train. As always, whenever I face a terribly crowded place with a popular name, I fear a bomb-blast. I donno how I developed this fear, may be reading too much action thrillers or remembering the incidents happened in this country over past 10 years.
Once I reached, the day ended towards a cold winter evening.
I slept for 12 hours at a streach. I was still roamng in Delhi in my dreams, running here and there, the late night driving with my cousins, the new friends I made there. They all visited me. I was happy in my dreams. 🙂
The next day, when I opened News Paper, you know how I felt ?
What happened to that girl in the bus could have happened to me too. I was travelling alone, there was no CCTV footage. What if I were in that same bus with her? I remembered one day when I booked a bus with big windows and automatic doors that only opens following the driver’s instruction. I was the only girl in the bus with another 10 “not-so-nice-looking” men . I left it feeling a bit uneasy and started walking from Safdarjung Tomb to Jor-Bagh metro. I was also new to Delhi , just like her, alone at times. However, I am lucky that my cousin told me to prefer metro as it is usually more crowded and I have less chance to be lost. I also loved the girls in metro with their trendy winter collections and purchased a card worth 150 rupees.
Now, after reading and re-reading posts after posts in the net all I feel is I was in a not-so-safe place at a comparably safe time with apparently safe-people.
Or may be I just got lucky.