A TYPICAL JANUARY DAY in New Delhi is cold and short. At 8:30am my sister Chinki and I are ready to leave the house. Facing the prospect of a 5:00pm sunset, we are not taking any chances.
“Auto,” I yell out. A green and yellow auto rickshaw slows down and stops in front of us.
“But it only costs seventy.”
He nods and we get in. Round one is ours.
Six years away and I still haven’t lost the art of haggling with the auto rickshawallah and winning–a trait only a typical Delhiite possesses and enjoys. Joy for the next twenty minutes till we reach CP.
First stop is breakfast at Wengers. “One chocolate truffle pastry,” orders Chinki, blatantly ditching her diet. I have the same. We always did that. We walk around the outer circle and then the inner. We buy identical pairs of silver earrings from a dusty antique silver shop, rummage through some books in an equally dusty bookshop. Old silver and old books–have always loved both.
We reach Dilli Haat at noon. The winter sun is above us. One layer of clothing has come off. “I missed you each time I came here,” Chinki says. We saw each other yesterday for the first time in three years. I nod and smile.
We order chai and chicken momos for lunch from the northeast food counter. As always, they are divine. We walk some more, looking at the shops but buying nothing. Another round of chai follows, this time while sitting on grass in a quiet corner. Nothing’s changed.
We ditch the auto rickshaw and take the train to Lajpat Nagar. The Delhi Metro–a swanky new addition to the old city. It’s slick and it’s fast. It’s clean too. Fellow passengers stare at us during the ride. Men are occupying seats reserved for women. It’s all the same.
It’s 4:00pm and we are part of the huge evening crowd at Central Market. The shopper’s market in Lajpat Nagar has it all–clothes, shoes, bags, food, and more. “Hold my hand,” I say. Chinki readily agrees. We are both a bit overwhelmed. We buy shoes. Black sandals for her, silver chappals for me. We never like the same shoes. We wonder why the crowd seems larger than usual. We realize it’s Saturday. It was always like this.
“I am not used to it anymore,” she says. She lives in Mumbai now. I nod and smile. It’s dark and we head home. We have re-lived a day in the city from ten years ago.
From the terrace of my mother’s house, I watch the traffic underneath go by. At nearly 10:00 pm the road is still alive. That’s Delhi for you.
Tonight, I feel in sync with my hometown.
“I’d missed Delhi,” I say to Chinki. She nods. I catch her smiling in the dark.