Cities, like people, grow on you. At least, they do on me. Every time I visit New Delhi, I find it more and more livable. Earlier, I used to feel homesick in the capital the first evening, now it is after the discount hotelier's three days and two nights.
I was in New Delhi for that period, staying at the India International Center among the lush Lodhi Gardens. The IIC, as it is known, is an intellectual's club, with residence facilities. It is a place of permanent seminars, with row of tea-cups laid out outside the seminar halls. And in the bar and dining rooms they are constantly discussing, and sometimes gently arguing, over cultural issues. The issue, while I was there, was Husain and his Saraswati painting.
Saturday afternoon, artists and art activists had arrived at the bar, in twos and fours, from a pro-Husain protest meeting. As gin and beer flowed, more people signed a resolution attacking the Philistines. I also signed; in Rome, I am a Roman. Though, after a couple of gin-and-tonics, I did try to bring the entire issue into focus. However, I gave up when I found that most of the members gathered were not familiar with Mr. Pramod Navalkar. Pramod Navalkar, who?
Outside the bar, more esoteric matters were being considered. And I could spot many faces, so far familiar only in newspapers. It is a strange thing, but most people in other town think the citizens of Mumbai are constantly brushing shoulders with film stars ("Who, Karishma Kapoor bazar mein goomti hogi!"). No. But In Delhi, you keep sighting politicians. Or, at least, ex-politicians who could become current politicians overnight.
And where there were politicians, there had to be security staff, all of whom I found to be extremely courteous and polite. I understand, they have been trained to be so.
On the weather front, New Delhi was having its first blush of winter. During the day, a mist hung in the trees, though some said it was the polluted air produced by the auto-rickshaws. And, in the night, the weather turned nice and chill, and all the roads were perfumed with raat-ki-ranis.
In the Lodhi Gardens, parts of which I could see from my balcony there was a continuous stream of walkers. The joggers came early in the morning, followed by business men baboos, then the housewives, in the late mornings and the early evenings, and, in-between, a few loving couples sat under large oaks. The bureaucrats came late in the evening, the day's work done and the night's still to begin, and, occasionally, a minister walked circled by his security guards.
It I was a minister, and I was scared of my life, I would take my walks in my garden.