Delhi Isn’t Delhi Anymore

By: Deeksha Makhija
(Picture Courtesy: Google Images)

delhi graffiti art in the city

I remember my childhood, I lived in a city of hot summers and way too cold winters. My childhood home had a little backyard with one swing and so many plants. Whenever I did something wrong and wanted to save myself from mumma, I would go and hide somewhere in between the plants and would not dare to come out until papa came home from the office.

He had always known my place of hiding, so if he never found me at home, he knew where to find me. He used to bring things for me, like a box full of colourfully wrapped candies, little white shoes and a few colourful frocks. On Saturdays, we would eat papaya for breakfast and on Sundays, I would get excited to play with him in our little backyard. He would sip his tea and I would play with sand– that smell of wet sand would be my favourite. Little did I know that an actual term for it (‘petrichor’) would soon be added to my vocabulary.   

I remember, there was an old lady who used to live right in front of my house. She used to oil my hair during the winters and after that, I would sit under the sun with her and learn the mathematic tables till 12. 

This is how my childhood looked. I do not have perfect metaphors to make it look more beautiful in a poetic way, just words that my English teacher at school taught me. On summer vacations, I would go to nani’s house, which would make me sad because going to nani’s house meant going away from papa for a few days. I would cry while saying bye to him. Whenever I would return, we’d have our picnic time at Lodi Garden, with two of my cousins. We would go there, barefoot on the grass, eat choco bars, and play hide and seek. That would be our perfect family time, with everyone together. 

This was my city, where I spent my childhood. I called it home because that is what home meant. Every lane of my city had attached to it a memory in my heart. There was a lane to the ice cream shop (I had memorized it because whenever mumma or papa gave me a little money, I went there to get myself one chocobar). There was a temple too, with a big red gate (where I’d go with the motivation of getting sweets). My father had a two-wheeler and while coming back from school, I would stand ahead of him, and pester him to let me ride. 

Riding used to entice me, so I learnt cycling on the roads of my colony, getting so many knee wounds. The crying sessions after that were everlasting. 

I never watched a lot of cartoons, but I remember watching Oswald, Noddy, Granny and Her Kids, with my sisters at home after coming back from school. We would even fight for the remote to watch our different shows. The winner of the fight for the remote would always be my elder sister, because of her obviously, “elder” status.

My teacher had once asked all of us to get crayons, and I used mine to write my name on the walls of my house.

You see, I have created a listicle of my childhood anecdotes and if you ask me what I call ‘home,’ my answer would still be, “my childhood Delhi home”. I still live in the same city, but not in the same house. Delhi does not feel like Delhi to me anymore, even though I try by sometimes calling it, “Dilli’. However, I sense it failing every time I try to revive my childhood memories. My childhood soul was fearless because maybe it did not know that men smiling at me have had different intentions. Lanes I walked in, learnt cycling in, do not recognize me anymore. They laugh at me, ridicule me, and sometimes even in hot summers, they make me feel cold. 

My mother used to protect me and I always tried finding ways to escape from that sort of protection. Now in my adulthood, I am looking for that just that. 

I loved my childhood. I wish to revive the same time again, but I do not want to do it by visiting those places, those lanes, those streets. It makes me sad. I wish I had never said goodbye to that house, I said it maybe because I did not know ‘goodbye-goodbye’ means the last bye and not the ones I used to do while going to nani’s house. 

It makes me cry, not because my goodbye made that time lost somewhere, but because I said goodbye to something that is dead now. 

As I think about it, I am supposed to revive my childhood memories by writing this but can I, really? 

To read more such musings, check out The Word.