'I Am Proud of Delhi...Couldn't Live Elsewhere'
By Sagarika Ghose
Published: 13th Apr 2014 06:00:00 AM
I have lived in Delhi since 1977. In many ways, Delhi is like an old shoe to me because it is very comfortable. I know it is seen as a dangerous place for women and that is true but the Delhi that I grew up in was a gentler place. It was much more provincial. One just had the freedom to be exactly what one was—be it being ill-dressed as you like or cycling on the streets. Whether it was deriving pleasure from all the little things in life such as bougainvillea on a summer afternoon or walking into Khan Market when it was a bucolic, primitive little market with cows strolling in the front plaza. Maybe because I lived in that charmed world of Lutyens’ Delhi in a government bungalow, I grew up in a city which was quiet and highly civilised.
It was the pre-liberalisation era so it was not just the city that changed, India too changed so dramatically. I think 1991 was the big watershed when the economy changed. I grew up in an India which was still a license permit raj, third-world country which was nowhere near as full of opportunities as it is today.
Delhi was never safe for women. Even when I was growing up there were the lecherous people on the streets but one could live with that. I think the crimes then were not as gruesome as they are today. And I would travel by public transport all the time. This culture of taking cars everywhere was non-existent.
Having said that I still love Delhi. Because I think in spite of it all there is a huge sort of spirit about the city. Nobody belongs to Delhi yet it belongs to everyone. Power is a big currency in Delhi, but despite that it is a city that has very little hang ups. And particularly what I most love about Delhi is the sheer range of people here. You have bureaucrats, activists, academics, business people, writers, artists, politicians. Being the capital, it attracts everyone and offers a very rich human experience. You can move in so many different worlds—the political world, academic world, art world or activist world.
Also, there is a lot of intellectual activity in Delhi. All its think tanks and universities make for a rich intellectual life. It is the centre of ideas and of the media.
You can sample so much of life here. And I love the city in winter. I am extremely proud of Delhi in how it has mobilised its citizenry. No city has seen had the kind of citizen protests that happened here after the Nirbhaya case, even during the Anna Hazare movement. The city has given itself a transformative political party like the Aam Aadmi Party which is not to say that I am its supporter. But a party of this sort has entered the political scene without money or muscle power. That’s a tribute to Delhi and its people. When I was covering the December 2012 protests, I felt proud to see young boys and girls come out in the freezing cold, brave water canons and tear gas shells but still they stood their ground. And today they’ve created changes in a law. I applaud the people of Delhi. I couldn’t live anywhere else.
(Sagarika Ghose is a senior journalist. (As told to Supriya Sharma))
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