Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reintroduction to Delhi/Gurgaon

The year was 2006.

A dashing yet vulnerable looking youth tentatively stepped off an aeroplane in the rather small and congested old-airport in Bangalore. He had with him a single suitcase and a scrap of paper with an address.

He looked around hesitantly. The air was crisp with a hint of rain. A combination that he would get so used to that he'd take it for granted in some time. But that would be later, right then, just after the heat and dust of towns in Gujarat, it seemed like heaven.

He stepped out of the airport to see the smiling face of a close friend, and the familiar pillion seat of a rather fetching burgundy motorcycle. He had spent close to two years riding pillion on this bike. Two points of familiarity in a sea of the unfamiliar. Unfamiliar faces, unfamiliar roads, even unfamiliar red, igneous soil.

And so the journey began and I moved to Bangalore.

From the initial couple of years when Delhi still seemed the real home and coming back from vacations gave a sick feeling to the stomach, to missing Bangalore when on vacations abroad and only feeling  comfortable after landing at the Bangalore airport, its been a long and interesting journey.

So when I got a good professional opportunity back in Delhi/Gurgaon I wasn't completely exuberant about leaving Bangalore. True, quite a few friends had moved out of the city (including the first familiar face here, PS) by then and the weekends were not as full of action as they used to be, but still, AV and I had set up home here and we liked the city. We had our own haunts and our own stories. I had thought that if we would leave Bangalore, it would probably be to move outside India. But then, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

So I came back to the place of my birth four weeks ago. AV, the sacrificing angel that she's been about this, is still in Bangalore and will be joining me in a few weeks.

Enough context. This post is about coming back to Delhi and rediscovering everything again.

After you spend nearly a decade out of a city, coming back is as good as living in a new city, even though in theory you had spent 22-23 years earlier. And that's what is happening now.

I was looking for a house to rent in Gurgaon for most of these last four weeks. And this has been such a different experience because, if anything, there has always been a house in Delhi and I have never been exposed to hunting for a house here. Overall, it was a very different experience than in Bangalore (I should know, I've stayed in eight different houses there). For one, the brokers were significantly more unreliable than they were in Bangalore. At the other end there were brokers who wanted to ensure we chose the right 'address' rather than the right house. But it wasn't all bad. There was a lot of warmth in the broker who finally got us the house. Genial smile, taking me around as I precariously perched on his Activa. Showing me the different markets where I could get great food and also advising me that if I just move to the other side of Gurgaon, I could buy everything for '30% cheaper'!

Which brings me to the other thing. The FOOD.

It is just amazing in Delhi. I know, I know I've eaten some amazing food in extremely hoity-toity restaurants in Bangalore, but the steaming momos in the nippy air of a November evening, or the sizzling tikkis at night or the chhole-kulche at any time of the day in the street food markets of Delhi/Noida/Gurgaon are unmatched by any high-end restaurant anywhere. Oh, and I forgot the paranthe outside IIFT (yes, I visited the old alma mater dhabas one night. Though I believe I accidentally missed the alumni meet last Saturday. Pity, I would have liked to connect with people again)

All the food means that I am buying more and more soap. (As the surface area is increasing. oh what the hell, I am gaining weight with all the food intake. Need-to-start-running-again)

And finally, and most importantly, lest you think I value food more than friends, I have been catching up with a lot of old friends. People I've been in constant touch with but who I have met very infrequently. And there's nothing like having friends around; friends who you can tell (instead of ask) that you'd be staying over at there place and they better arrange for your favourite food before you reach there. Or having friends who show up downstairs to pick you up if you don't feel like driving.

So yes, things are different here. And there will be many rediscoveries and new discoveries to be made, but I'm sure it'll be a fun ride!

PS: You realise sometimes that the parameters of comfort change. I am looking forward to AV coming, and then we can start rediscovering things together. I'll also feel a little more, to use the cliche, 'settled'.

PPS: Now you know I'm in Gurgaon, so all my long lost friends, do drop me a line/comment for us to catch up again! Preferably, while eating street food!