Letter from Gurgaon – On The Delhi Walla Books
Best-selling novelist introduces The Delhi Walla books.
[By Advaita Kala]
When my family moved to Delhi in the early nineties, I was not in the least pleased. With two years to go before I finished school, I had made up my mind that this sentence would be served swiftly. So, one early morning (incidentally, it was 15th August, India’s independence day), as the jet soared above the blinking lights of this city, I swore that I would never return to live. It truly was Independence Day for me.
But never say never, and I was back after four years. My country life existence in the American South had filled me with an irrational nervousness of crowds. I remember an instance when at the now closed Chanakya movie hall – a regular haunt of my high school days – I left a film at the interval because there were too many people. Trying to make sense of my life while adjusting in Delhi, I found myself displaced without the means or the opportunities to have another alternative. Miserable about being in the Capital and rendered helpless by the compulsions that kept me here (unlike most people my age I was yet to find a vocation and hence an exit), this city threatened to swallow me whole and fill me with its dreaded ‘sameness’.
Maybe it has been said before, but the easiest way to fall in love with a place is to see it through the eyes of someone who has made it their own. Every bit of it, from the crumbling walls of an old school, to a poorly-lit bookstore, or even the hairy arms of the trusted family dentist who was now yours, on recommendation. After all, this city is all about ‘word of mouth’ secrets. It is also about history that is found in the monuments, and history that is revealed in the personal reminiscences of those who call themselves Delhiwallas. It took time, but soon I developed the courage to cease looking over another’s shoulders and created my own history with this city. And in doing so gave in to my greatest fear, that of allowing the city to change me – for the good and the bad.
When I met the Delhi Walla he had his camera lens poised on me at a rather inappropriate moment. I was aware of his reputation as a fastidious chronicler of all things Delhi and asked him to desist from taking the picture. He obliged, and I realized that here was a gentleman. And maybe in this city of many acquaintances, I had found a friend? Furthermore, I was fascinated by his love for his adopted city, his understanding of it, organic, germane and frighteningly raw. We got talking and he asked if I have ever walked the underpasses at night? I looked at him askance – there are some things a woman just can’t do in Delhi. And in that moment I felt regret – regret for the many adventures his gender permitted him and mine denied me. And envy – an envy of the illicitness of his affair with this city as opposed to my own rather wholesome awareness. We would be friends, I decided, and I would rediscover my city through his eyes.
Hence, it is with selfish anticipation that I look forward to buying his books. Even for those of us who call ourselves ‘Delhi Wallis’ – there will be revelations. And while Delhi will always have her secrets, as she must, I am certain that our ardent Delhi Walla will continue to pursue her and keep us in love with this city.
Note: The Delhi Walla books are available in all the leading stores of the country.
[Advaita Kala is the author of the best-selling novel Almost Single. She also wrote the screenplay of the film Anjaana Anjaani. She lives in Gurgaon]