I visit my parents every year, and every year Delhi seems a bit bigger, a bit more chaotic, a bit more crowded. There is hardly any room to walk. The urban symphony of car horns, hawkers, and the low rumble of the metro trains takes up every inch that the humans, cars and packs of dogs don’t. You can feel the density of humanity, even when you don’t see it. You can feel the struggle, the hope, and the hopelessness. It is like every other big city, but it is not like any other place.
There are parts of the city that seem serene. Big money always buys you privacy, silence, and cleanliness. Some say that, by 2020, Delhi will become the third largest metropolitan area behind Tokyo and Mumbai. When I left Delhi, it had about 5 million residents. Now, the metropolitan area tips over 29 million. I don’t know how the city manages — and will manage — as it grows and grows.
I see my dad waking up in the middle of the night to ensure that we have enough water. Three gigantic Dyson air purifiers are fighting a losing battle to keep the apartment air clear enough to breathe. It is not as bad as it used to be, but it is not really smog season yet. October is supposed to be the start of the cooler season, and yet it is hot, sticky and humid. It was 92 degrees in the shade this afternoon. All I could do was come home, peel my skin, hang it to dry, and turn on the air conditioner. Thankfully, the power cuts that were a permanent feature of my childhood are now few and far between.
The city is no longer the languid place I grew up. I have changed. Delhi has changed. Memories, unfortunately, have a habit of staying rooted in the same place. It is okay — memories come in the way of dreams, which are really a Google Map to the future.
Delhi, October 7, 2019