Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It is difficult to write often- for when I most want to write, I have neither access nor the time to do so. Then, when I do get time to write, the moment has passed.

I went for a conference on LGBT rights in Los Angeles last week, and also had a wonderful holiday in New York two weeks back. Predictably, both places made me want to blog about a lot of things. Not so predictably, however, I will not mention those places in this entry, but shall go back to Delhi- a city which I have already blogged enough on.

As those you've followed the blog know, I love Delhi. For a lot of reasons- its history, its ancient culture, its wide roads, its greenery... blah, blah, blah. I am often irritated by denizens of other Metropolitan cities who come to Delhi and whine about it. Constantly. This irritation is what makes me nasty about their cities- often, exasperatedly, telling them; "Oh, go back to that shithole of yours"- this about a city I have deep love for, or Bombay, a city I'm far more ambivalent about.

On the other hand, I myself have been guilty of being caustic about those citizens of Delhi who are blind to the past, and ignore history. I don't know what sparked off my love for Delhi and its history- one that blossomed only after I left for Hyderabad- but suspect that my interest in Lahore, and the remarkable similarities of both cities would be a considerable factor.

An interesting piece I have recently read by Shashi Tharoor questions my assumptions on the city. While he is fond of Delhi, he expresses his opinion on the ambivalent views of Delhiites on their 'own' history in a manner quite removed from mine. He suggests that Punjabis, who form the bulk of Delhi's population- having arrived there en masse after the partition in 1947- have suffered at the hands of history and consequently see no reason to shower their love upon borrowed memories of a city "steeped in decay and disease, ossified in communal and caste divisions, exploitative and unjust." Instead, they seem far more interested in the politics of their lives, rather than the history- the hows, rather than the whys.

This gives me reason to think. One loves a place not only for its history, but also for one's personal associations with it. Oftentimes, these associations are far more important to people than a vast, impersonal history. That accepted, as someone who loves Delhi, should I not love it not only for its past, but also its ability to break free of it? In terms of aesthetics and history, the Jama Masjid or the Red Fort may be far more enduring and valuable than the Gurudwaras of Lajpat Nagar or the numerous RWA buildings of South Delhi colonies, but are these not equally reflective of the history of Delhi? When, for instance, one goes to Coronation Bagh, and sees statues of British officials standing forlornly around grazing goats, is that not a symbol- not only of the past, but also of the present?- one far more true, in fact, than a glittering Victoria Memorial would have one believe? Is that not another reason to love Delhi too?-especially since I constantly search for reasons to justify this love to people who constantly sneer at Delhi's lack of intellectual refinement.

This is (as most of my posts are) a hurried post. Work beckons, and I cannot spend more time musing. Bear with me, if you will, my inability to conclude fittingly.


Blogger Karan said...

I was doing a project recently with someone who was from Lahore and he told me the same thing - that Delhi was very similar to Lahore.

11:51 pm  
Anonymous Chakrabarty said...

"That accepted, as someone who loves Delhi, should I not love it not only for its past, but also its ability to break free of it?"

But is that so much of an ability as an affliction? Delhi hasn't actively striven to break free of the past, its breaking free has happened because it has never given itself time to pause and reflect. The partition, and 1984, are both subject to convenient collective amnesia, but I find myself wondering at times whether that is such a good thing.

12:52 am  
Blogger Manav said...

Is not the ability to get up and move on without reflection important? Not entirely so, I admit, but perhaps better than becoming a prisoner of a largely-hypothetical past, reminiscencing about days of imperial glory coupled with personal memories of "when we were young"?

And you know what I'm referring to here, don't you?

1:04 pm  

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