Home > India > A homecoming – Delhi

A homecoming – Delhi

Old Delhi

After eight months of travelling around the world we finally arrived in the city of Delhi – my birthplace and a source of joy each time I visit it.

A late flight meant we found our own accommodation on the first night and the next day took the opportunity to explore old Delhi, and in particular the area where I was born. Whilst the rest of Delhi changes each time I visit, much of old Delhi remains the same, as though stuck in a time warp.

The international airport is now a pleasure to arrive at, the roads are excellent, the traffic congestion has been eased by the addition of flyovers and Delhi Metro. Some of these advancements can be credited to the recent Commonwealth Games being held here but mostly to Delhi Authorities cleaning up their act.

Old Delhi however remains as it was 10, 20, 40 and 60 years ago. The narrow lanes are congested with rickshaws, hand-pushed carts

Postbox behind my old house

and motorbikes.Thousands of tiny shops specialise in just one thing, whether it be spices, gold, stationery or wedding paraphrenalia. The alleyway with the house where I was born looks largely the same but has become more commercialised. The architecture remains but people moved out and the wedding stationers moved in. Walking around, I could still make out the traces of architecture I remember as a little girl – where our front door would have been, the path to the back of the town-house and the even narrower alley which leads to a large townhouse built in the crevice of where two houses met perpendicularly.

As we walked along these streets yesterday, I reminisced about olden days. When I lived here in the late 1970s and early 80s as a little girl, the entire street knew each other. There was only a sprinkling of shops and businesses, though even then it was known as the place to go in Delhi if you wanted a wedding card printed. There was a deep water well and  few large courtyards at which I remember all the neighbours playing Holi (Hindu colour festival). Each day I would hear the muezzin at Jama Masjid read the namaaz and at Eid, we took little bowls of sevaiyan (a dessert made of vermicelli soaked in sweet milk with nuts) to each other’s houses.

Turning left into the dead end alley, I went past the house where an Uncle once removed had grown up. It was the only place which looked like it may still have someone living in it. The postbox outside announced the name I remembered years ago and after plucking up some courage I

Street food

knocked on the door. it creaked open but there was no one inside. Not knowing what I would say if someone did appear, I took a tentative step forward. There was a courtyard with a neat kitchen set up in one corner and a parasol keeping the sun out of the most of the opening above.

Through the same door which I stepped in came in a lady who asked if she could help. I didn’t recognise her and felt embarrassed to have been inside the parapet without being invited in. She explained that she lived there with her sister and that she worked at the shop next door. I then introduced myself and she recognised me immediately – she said I looked just like my mother. She took us to the shop and insisted we rest our weary legs and have a drink. The summer heat had parched our throats and it was a pleasure to sit with a fan above us and have a cup of tea. It turned out she was the niece of the Uncle I mentioned above.

Though she wasn’t related to me and had a tentative relationship with me, she was so good to invite us in, buy us a drink and chat about old times. It’s experiences like this which make a trip!

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Ambling along the narrow lanes, taking in the sights and smells and sounds (and believe me they can be overwhelming!) we stopped off at a street food stall and asked for a plate of aloo ki tikki. The old man gently fried the little potato cakes in some oil, crushed them with  his hands and poured beaten salted yoghurt, coriander and mint chutney, and tamarind paste to the top with a generous sprinkle of chaat masala and handed it to me with a couple of wooden spoons. It was delicious!

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Categories: India Tags: , , ,
  1. July 26, 2011 at 02:03

    What a wonderful trip down memory lane or you. I was in Delhi 20 year ago and my mind boggled at the changes you mentioned .it’s the place where I developed a fear of crossing the road! Perhaps I should plan a trip there on our way to Australia in January.

  2. Rich
    July 27, 2011 at 10:29

    God, I envy you and Craig and all those amazing photo opportunities.
    Have a fab time Shelley!

  3. Tom Price
    July 27, 2011 at 15:15

    You’re meeting some very friendly people while on your travels.

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