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   I have recently realised that there is very little I know about Delhi. (January 6, 1993)

I have recently realised that there is very little I know about Delhi. My visits to it have been few and the duration of stay during those visits limited. During the Asian Games, when I was working on the games semi-official newspaper, Asiad Chronicle, I stayed a full month. That was my longest stay in Delhi, but my movements were restricted between the half-completed Yatri Nivas, where I stayed, and the three-quarter completed Nehru Stadium, where the games were held and where the office of the newspaper was located. But it was lovely travelling between the two points. I would leave the hotel early in the morning riding an auto-rickshaw through a Delhi covered in a winter gauze. Past the Kanishka, along broad avenues with ministerial bungalows on two sides, the nameplates on the gates reading like headlines in the newspapers: Buta Singh, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Pranab Mukherjee. In front, over the rickshaw driver's head, the India Gate would loom, definitely a more imposing sight than our Gateway Of India. There would be scores of gardeners everywhere, mowing the lawns, tending the flower-beds. It always hurts me to see so much money being spent in manicuring and beautifying Delhi, money that has been obtained by taxing Bombay and Calcutta and which should rightly go towards improving those two cities.

Still, on a lovely morning in Delhi, these are not thoughts that you should allow to bother you. So, past Hyderabad House, past Sujan Singh Park, home and property of Khushwant Singh, and, in the distance, I could see the pillions with the floodlights to illuminate Nehru Stadium. That is what I am most familiar with in Delhi. What more? Bahadurshah Zafar Marg, the offices and building shoulder to shoulder. It has often been described as Delhi's Fleet Street, but Fleet Street it is not. One look at the confusion of rickshaws and bicycles and scooters and puri-bhaji and nimbupani stalls and natives raising clouds of dust as they try to negotiate the unmade roads and you will know why not. And I know the hotels of Delhi. Even if you don't want to, you are made to know them. Taj Mansingh and Taj Palace, and Hyatt Regency, and the Meridien, and Oberoi, and the Welcome Group's hotel, what's-it-called, that our Jai Inder Singh Kalra takes care to keep constantly in the news. I may be prejudiced, but somehow, in Bombay, in spite of all its abysmal poverty, the five-star hotels seem to belong here, in Delhi they do not. But there is also the Old Delhi. Past Daryaganj and Moti Mahal, past Jamma Masjid and a view of the fortifications of the Red Fort, into the maze of Chandni Chowk and Paratha Gulleys, and the aroma of mutton being cooked with rose attar at Karim's and a dozen other restaurants of its kind. That is the Delhi I would like to know, but nobody considers that as Delhi any more.

 
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