Viewpoint – New Delhi to New York…and Back…

An Indian living in NYC, anxious about returning back to his first home – Delhi.

[By Mohit Syall; standing next to Oprah Winfrey during a New York City fund-raising evening.]

After spending almost 8 years of my adult life in the New York City area, I am returning back to my hometown New Delhi. A lot has changed since I left the city. Even though I visited every year, it was like going back to a strange place I never knew before.

Delhi memories of childhood and teenage years have now grown distant and blurred. How will I adjust back to life in Delhi? Will I love it? Will I hate it?

Delhi, or for that matter India, is a depressing place to be especially after having lived in New York. No doubt there is a lot of beauty and a lot of people in the city but compared to metropolitan cities in more developed countries there is very little to do besides eat, work and sleep. In terms of culture and cultural choices India is a very limiting country. Perhaps that is why Indians are so HUNGRY for life in the west.

Let’s see the options we have in New York: Lots of theatre, Broadway shows, even more off-Broadway shows; thousands of elegant restaurants serving a multitude of cuisines never even heard in India – from Japanese to Korean, Indian, German, Ukrainian, French, Italian, Malaysian, Tibetan, Russian, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Brazilian, Mexican, Argentinean, British, Soul food (southern food) and of course American! Not only does NYC have restaurants offering all these cuisines but you can actually pick and chose from many that offer the same cuisine.

We have movie theatres at every few blocks showing every kind of film in the world. We have hundreds of late night lounges, piano bars, and karaoke bars. We have different ethnic neighbourhoods – Indian areas, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, German, Italian (Little Italy), Chinese ( China Town – there is one in every major US city). We have dozens of cultural events every single day. There are art exhibits, museums like the MOMA ( Museum of Modern Art), the Guggenheim, the famous Metropolitan museum and much more. Last but not the least my favourite part – NYC offers the best shopping experience in the world. SOHO, 5th Avenue and the West Village have everything you need for your wardrobe or home from all corners of the world. Every designer label is a short cab ride away. More importantly there is something for every budget in this city.

Delhi and Mumbai have a lot of stuff to do as well but on a much smaller scale. Most Delhites I know either hang out every night with friends and relatives or go to a movie or go out to eat and drink. They have extremely limited lives compared to the over abundance of choices people have here in NYC.

So what do rich New Yorkers do for a night out? Let’s see – take a helicopter ride over Manhattan then drive in their chauffeured Limo to an elegant restaurant probably on a high floor with magnificent views of NYC and finish up with a ballroom dance. Or they spend $200 a person on tickets to a European Symphony / Orchestra performing somewhere in the City. Or better still shell out a $1000 or upwards for a Charity Event to wine and dine with the celebrities. Everything is at your fingertips in this great city called New York.

Why then am I returning to India? Maybe I just feel a wee bit overwhelmed by the abundance of choices in New York City. Maybe I’ve been there done that and need to move on. But it’s hard to give up this city. I probably never will. It’s even harder to live in Delhi after seeing all that I have seen. But Delhi was and will always be my first home – even though it doesn’t have to be my only home!