Delhi: A City of Djinns

Delhi: A City of Djinns

Delhi has its subtle quirks and idiosyncrasies that unconsciously lure me in deeper and deeper. A vignette of its charm can be a visit to any one of my favorite corners- grimy stalls once colorful offering the most succulent chuskis, a monkey prancing about hand-held by an acrobat, and the sunny skies. There’s nothing like the blue summer skies that Delhi has to offer. 

William Dalrymple on one of his visits to Delhi divulged to his readers what the capital was all about- he said, “it is a portrait of a city disjointed in time, a city whose different ages lay suspended side by side as in aspic, a city of djinns”. 

That opened my eyes to a brand new city; the same old views, buildings, gardens, pollution, and heat, but a whole new perspective. 

The truth is, Delhi used to frighten me. The climate was brutal, the people distant; the roads too mucky, and the dark too scary. But I think somewhere along the line I started to see the light in the dark- maybe it was the fairy lights that roofed the congested lanes of Champa Galli, or maybe it was the unbearably artificial tube lights in the evening shops of Lajpat Nagar. 

There was light and vibrancy in every nook, be it the shops in Connaught Place overflowing with books and clothes and other nugatory items, or the abstract art scene of Hauz Khaz that I never quite understood. 

Before I knew it, I stopped looking for the light. I watched the sun conquer the horizon, and I silently observed the linens and cotton being replaced by wool and corduroy. The clear panes of metros now damp, little bits of frost melting into minuscule puddles of mist, glistening like a million diamonds as the specks of sunlight hit the glass. 

I realized there was light everywhere. I looked to the left and there was light, I looked to the right and it was ablaze. There was light in the patisseries of Khan Market, and there was a glow in the teeming lanes of Sarojini Nagar. 

There was something illuminating at every corner I turned; university students flaunting their intellect, and elderly men sitting in balconies turning pages of newspapers atop their bellies imparting expertise on something they never knew; there were the strong, fierce women, a force to be reckoned with, and even the street vendors that gave out free advice along with overpriced onions. 

There was so much light that I wondered what darkness I ever saw. The new perspective gave me a clean slate, a re-introduction to a foreign city so far from home; an introduction to all the students, old men, empowering women, and jocular vendors. I don’t know how and when, but from being strange and far, this city of djinns became a city of hope and light and home.


Nandini Sethi
Nandini Sethi

Sometimes dolefully insightful, sometimes plain distressed state of mind, but always love. I think there’s a bit of love in everything we write. 

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