October 20, 2014

Delhi Diary: Of Fruit-Sellers, Mint Walls, and Bookmarked Flowers

So New Delhi it is, my new home.

Even though I have previously visited it countless times, it was quite a distinctly different feeling altogether this time round when we landed at the airport; as the taxi wended its way through the web of streets, trees, cars, people, and buildings, one phrase recurrently echoed in my head: this is home now. I recalled in the past when we would arrive in Delhi from Oman during summer holidays, how excitedly, curiously and intensely I would examine my surroundings, almost as if I was intent on inhaling the city. This time, even though it had been barely hours since I had begun inhabiting the city, I was already blasé about it: bits of ancient stone and stories peeking from the foliage, the dried leaves poetically dotting the ground, the towers of rainbow hued bangles, the exquisite gardens of mehendi patterns being wrought on ladies' palms for Karva Chauth...

The first few days have been a blur of roaming around and exploring the city, shopping, flat-hunting, falling ill and starting to flesh a house into a home. What continually strikes me is that I am a transitory bird no more, always aware of imminent departure: I am here to stay, which translates into starting to befriend the city, rather than merely gawking at and absorbing it before leaving and saying goodbye with a headful of memories and sights.

I wouldn't deny that I am a little bit homesick although it has now come to a point where I am never quite sure where exactly I am homesick for! Sometime, the sound, smell, and sight of foamy waves crashing upon the Seeb beach at dusk will flash through my mind; other days, as I glimpse unbearably beautiful images of flame-hued trees and massive leaf-carpets in Pittsburgh on Instagram, I recall one cool, crisp fall morning when I stepped outside onto my balcony only to see that the tree outside my apartment had turned crimson over night.

But then, I tell myself, this city has its own gifts to offer too. There is a slight nip in the air as the weather decides to become winter. Whether in our immediate neighborhood or the larger city itself, we see Diwali preparing to be celebrated (the first time I will be celebrating Diwali in India!) During the nights, numerous lights dress up the adjoining houses; the shops are crammed with an overwhelming buffet of color, sequin, and embroidery. And in the mornings, when I wake up, I see a different tree on either side, bracketing my room, casting their unique leaf-shaped shadows upon the floor...

Here are some visual notes from my diary:


Walking towards Sarojini Nagar market, I spotted this beautifully arranged platter of fruits: reddish ed berries and lime-green star-fruit. I asked the fruit-seller if I could take a picture; he interpreted it as photographing him and immediately commenced to make himself presentable, removing his cap, brushing his hair with his fingers, and positioning himself upright. After taking a picture of both the fruit arrangement and the seller himself, he beamed upon seeing his picture. "I look very fresh in this picture, right?" he said, grinning.



The walls in my new home are mint-colored; however, depending on my mood or if they catch the texture of the newly wintered saffron light, they are just as liable to turn pistachio.

One of the first things I did after moving into my house was to buy flowers - and even though I first picked my traditional favorites, roses (just opening pink and white buds, which contrast wonderfully against the green), I also bought a bunch of white, intoxicatingly-scented mogras. When I was living in America, my mother would text me pictures of fat, fluffy mogra blooming in our garden in Oman; even though I was surrounded by summer flowers of all dazzling shapes and textures, I still yearned for the mogras. And so, when I spotted the bunch sitting atop a hillock of orange marigolds, I immediately bought it - and drenched the house in a fragrance redolent of low-hanging clouds, crumbling havelis, and the monsoon rain's first embrace of the parched earth.

Bookmarked Flowers
I have always found myself employing the image and notion of the unwritten journal as a favorite metaphor of mine whenever I have envisioned the future, perhaps owing to the fact that the my journal has always been that significant and precious space in which I have mapped out the coordinates of my life. As I begin this new chapter of mine, mogra-bookmarked, I wonder what journeys and adventures await me...

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