Wandering in a big city- Nehru Place, Delhi


I enjoy being a part of the life of a big city... Thats not to say that I dont enjoy being in the garden of a sleepy town-house, or sleeping on a rope bed under the stars in a out-of-our-world village, or climbing the shoulders of a rocky mountain-fort or sitting pensively on the banks of a flowing river... I love the spirit that comes with every place... But sometimes I just love being in cities, big cities... First there was Mumbai, then Pune, and now thre is Delhi... I looove Delhi.. and among the many places I love to be in Delhi is Nehru Place! To many, Nehru Place (NP) is just a big market of computers and electronics, and thats how I was introduced to NP too...

Actually, I dont remember my first visit to NP at all.. All I remember is being outside Sona Sweets- a decently big, modern looking sweet shop with its glass cabinet-counters displaying racks of Indian sweets of every color and shape, counters serving chaats, Indauri poha, gaajar ka halwa et al and of course the crowd of families, couples, college kids, and uncles jostling for their share of space and mouth-watering food... (and it was the crowd why I actually ate at Sona Sweets only a couple of visits later) The other food memory at NP is of a garma-garam kadhi-chawal at a small outlet hiding between its bigger non-veg cousin and a bank... Even more, (much much much much more) tastier was the masaala mirch that comes with the plate overflowing with rice... And if you are those types who can believe a guy whose favorite dish at weddings is carrots from the salad, nothing can beat hot kadhi-rice with the oh-so-tangy masaala mirch on a hungry, sunny winter afternoon in Delhi. [And yes, if you want to catch up with an old friend who cannot take a chance in a million to risk his health you can go towards the part of NP near the NP metro, and you can find Southy- a nice little south-indian cafe, and everyone's favourite CCD, which with its couches and terrace-sitting is actually quite nice to catch up with an old friend on a lazy morning... :).]

If you are not a Delhiwallah and shouting at the screen- dude, what exactly is NP- hang on! From outside NP looks like a normal urban shopping area with a big parking and a clutch of big (compared to most of Delhi) buildings... It is only once you enter the premises you are welcomed into it's large bustling courtyards, squatting between towering structures of long concrete corridors, one upon the other; the towers decorated by a patchwork of small/big sign-boards and displays of latest electronic items. There is no seeming order, neither to the crowds criss-crossing your path nor to the patch work. It's only when one starts plodding one's way searching for a clue to what one wishes to find, this bewildering maze starts unravelling its complex design...

The ground floors of the buildings are mostly dominated by single-brand stores, medium size retailers, and ATMs save for a few shops selling ear-phones et al and the ilk of Sona sweet/Snack junction... Lining the corridors here are the chaps sitting on wooden stools, offering to laminate your laptop-screens or refill a printer's cartridge... If you press ahead with a confused look you are bound to be bombarded with a choice of either “software-games” or “pen drive-hard disk-repair-second hand-bechna-khareedna”... If you are still determined to find your own way you can take one of those spiralling stair-cases to the next level. For most parts this level has more small retailers and small repair shops. This is where souls troubled by a broken keyboard or a misbehaving screen, a slow computer or lost data are most likely to find respite. Also likely that you were looking for speakers or head phones or other accessories and you found them here... On the other hand if you were desperate (or first-timer or the chance-taker) and the agent was able to persuade you to go to a shop he suggested you might turn out to be lucky (or not so lucky) depending on how confused you are generally... ;) The inside of all towers, or so it seems to me, consist of intimidating alleys of outlets that are shady or run by novices... If you are looking for really expert and cheap help, and IMPORTANTLY if you know your way about the world you can decide to cross the towers through an alley, come out on the outside and enter into the basement which is another maze of repair units... Bon chance!! If you are looking for the service centre of a particular company, you will find it comfortably holding its place in the world (ac and all) on the higher levels which can be entered through staircases and elevators hidden in the deep interior of the towers... Apart from these, the highest levels of the towers showcase huge boards announcing the presence of big insurance corporations and banks.

Once you have found what you came looking for at NP and exit the big towers, you start noticing that the courtyards at NP have a different life of their own too... Here you will permanently find the make-shift stalls of garments, shoes and tools occupying a central place. Peter England, BlackBerry, and Rebok dominate the stalls competing alongside lesser known brands of trousers, shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, half-pants, sport shoes, sandals, chappals, you name it...

If you are really a keen observer, or interested in those beings walking on two limbs, or if a admiring regular (like me) you will start realizing that you have met just about every kind of a person here... The couples come here to stroll (yes! they are everywhere...), the college groups come here to hangout, the geeks, the tech-savvy and the needy come here to buy, over-caring parents come here to dote their college going kids, the businessmen come here to sell, the agents and workers come here to earn livelihood, the apprentices come here to learn... People arrive in buses, by metro, by cars, or on bikes... They eat at the chhole-kulche waalah, from a home tiffin or in Pind Balucci!! They are cheerful like new sons taking over their family businesses, sulky like old chaps bored with their lives, professionally adept like the sales guys, really helpful (like the uncle who sold me a laptop battery), or masters of their work (like the people who replaced my screen-light)... If you spend enough time, you will start noticing the paan-wallah, or the old man who repairs watches, and still sells watch straps (!!), or the young fellas who polish boots... even a poojari performing quick poojas for the shop-owners and blowing the conch summoning the gods of prosperity...

As you start back on the road to your own life somewhere else in this big city, there is one last bit that you can never miss... a chai stall on the first corner serving awesome tulsi-adrak chai with achaari Maggi!!

At Nehru Place, the worlds of individuals intersecting, coming together, creating a new world of its own, the world of a city with the spirit of the city...

3 comments:

bhu.ra. said...

I am glad you are enjoying in Delhi(The handicapped city). I am not going to garnish your joy with my anger about city.I should not....anyway...

अर्ज किया हे....
बड़ा गहरा तअल्लुक़ है सियासत से तबाही का
कोई भी शहर जलता है तो दिल्ली मुस्कुराती है|

Sneha Kulkarni said...

riveting! i could easily picturize the place and all its quirks..felt just like any other cosmopolitan market place..i guess delhi is as fine a city as any, after all!!

Saur said...

bhu ra- I agree that many things about this city are not exactly enjoyable.. but its also a lovable city.. I am a mediocre writer at best but I am sure you would love this city when you come here, and understand its past and its present more...

Sneha- thanks.. faarch lavkar convince zaalis ki tu... guilty feeling? anyway i hope to write more.. criticism is also welcome..

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