10 years ago on this very day I landed in Delhi- to start a new life. The Brahmaputra mail, by which I was travelling, reached old Delhi railway station at around 11:30 am on 26/12/2004. The day was cold and foggy. Within an hour I reached Masjid Moth behind South Extension, Part 2. At the very first sight, the congested area looked like a garage dump behind a building.
I came to Delhi to look for a job. It was a risky step as I knew only one person in Delhi at that point of time – Siddharth(Sid) and he was a student then. He is few years junior to me and belongs to a town near to my native place. He is the one who taught me driving while in Assam. He took me to an abandoned Bus stand for the first driving session. After couple of rounds, I took his Maruti 800 to the main road. I drove few kilometers before I hit a cow and a rickshaw. Luckily no one got injured seriously and other than few heated words from the rickshaw puller (the cow is anyway not expected to do that), things settled quietly.
He was sleeping when I reached his room. He used to live with two other guys in a two bedroom apartment. The rooms were dirty or I should say they were organized messily. There was smoke inside the rooms. At first I thought the outside fog has entered the apartment but later when I saw the ashtrays, I realized what it really was.
After dumping my luggage and spending few minutes with Sid till he could finish the cigarette which he lit when I entered, I went for a bath. His room-mates were sleeping in the other room. The bath was extremely essential to refresh myself after the 40 hour long journey. When I returned, I found all three of them sitting on Sid’s bed. They were looking at me as if I were an alien. They couldn’t digest the fact that I took a bath in cold water. After a brief introduction, they told me that they had not taken bath for couple of days in a row. One of them however assured me that I shouldn’t be worried as they usually make that up during summer. Some solace.
The first day was nothing sort of eventful. By the time I finished a cup of coffee, a friend of Sid came to us. He had hired a taxi to go sightseeing in Delhi and came to invite Sid to join him. Before I could know anything beyond that, I boarded the taxi along with Sid. On our way I came to know that his friend bought a digital camera and he wanted to do some photography. He was studying animation then and he wanted some digital photographs for his project. So we went to visit Humayuns Tomb. Needless to say that we clicked many pictures here and there despite the day being very foggy with an overcast sky. After the photo session, he threw us a party at McDonald’s. I had lost contact with him long time back, but I will always remember him for the fact that once when we were thrown out of the house by the landlord in the middle of a night, he gave us shelter for a day or two. I do not recall the exact reason behind the incident but most likely it was due to the fact that we forgot to switch off the water pump due to which overflowing water from the tank entered the landlord’s house. That happened couple of times and on that particular night the landlord lost all his patience and despite all our apologies we became refugee for a night or so. That was one of the two occasions where we had to leave our rented accommodation in the middle of a night.
Not only the first day, in fact all the days till I took a job, were eventful. All my roommates including Sid were student then and their classes used to happen in the afternoon. They used to return by around 8pm. Life in the house used to start post dinner. The 64 mbs internet connection used to be the lifeline. They used to spend the whole night by playing games, watching pirated movies, downloading songs, chatting on yahoo messenger and occasionally reading some study materials. At times they used to go to bed at around 6am in the morning – only after collecting drinking water for the day. So it was natural that Sid was still sleeping when I reached Delhi on 26th afternoon. I quickly adapted and lived that life till I took a job around 2 and a half month later.
I had to adjust myself to few other things as well. The cold and dry winter season was one of them. My nose used to bleed during the first winter. It happens sometimes even now. Next thing which I had to adjust was the spicy foods of Delhi. I still joke that the amount of onion which comes when you order in something is enough for a household in Assam to make regular dishes for one whole week. Paneer, Curd and Chaat – these three things which I used to eat rarely in Assam became very common. From Tawa based delicacies, I moved to Tandoori dishes. I also learnt certain words which are used much like adjectives and they are socially acceptable depending on who is speaking it. Remembering bus numbers became a priority and buying a beer at just rupees 30 and drinking with fried Momos made me feel like a Delhite. I spent three more winters in that locality. During that first three months, I changed three flats, had many meals at Aggarwal’s Restaurant and spend hours in the cyber cafes chatting on yahoo messenger and browsing naukri.com.
A decade has passed. Now I am a registered voter of Delhi. I feel that it will be difficult to live in any other city other than Delhi or NCR for that matter (as rents are going high in Delhi, I must align my feelings). I think the tandoori chickens are best served here and I also think Delhi’s traffic jam is where you get a chance to retrospect. I think I will survive and another decade will pass by just like the one gone by.