How to Fall in Love with a City? A love letter to Delhi

How do I describe something I cannot find the right words for, and even if I try, I think that I will just be setting myself up for failure. This is a city I have adored for years now. It’s like that sort of love when you love someone but keep denying it for the longest time but one day you wake up only to accept that it has always been there, those feelings blossoming in the light of day and ameliorating during the night. There is something mesmerising about Delhi that keeps you hooked to it. Maybe it is the Mughal and the British architecture garnished with the taste of newness or maybe it is the traffic despite the perpetually crowded metros or maybe the politically infused air infects me.


Delhi represents architecture, art, culture, politics and good food. There is something mesmerising about Delhi that keeps you hooked to it. Maybe it is the Mughal and the British architecture garnished with the taste of newness or maybe it is the traffic despite the perpetually crowded metros or maybe the politically infused air infects me.

Delhi represents architecture, art, culture, politics and good food. Several cultural events take place every day and with a glimmer of excitement in my eyes, I board the metro just so that I can see what new yet old experience Delhi has to offer me. One evening in Sunder Nursery, waiting for Barkha Dutt and Mira Nair to show up for Ms Dutt’s book promotion, I found myself among several like-minded strangers. Interacting with the two women, separately, who attended the same university as me, I found myself humbled by the placidity of the two. I cried when Ms Dutt cried and could not control my happiness when Ms Nair signed my copy of The Namesake.

I love how monarchs such as the Lodis, Mughals and many more adorned the city of Delhi with renowned architectural sites. The countless parks, tombs, and mahals still see the light of the day, the chirping of the birds, and new love and life blossom into promising futures. The first and last time I visited Zafar Mahal, it was a bats’ residence. However, the cracks in the walls of the centuries-old building had a peculiar ghostliness to them. The fact that I stood at the same place where once a monarch did, made me feel special in a strange way, I felt as if I belonged there.



Art is very prominent almost everywhere in Delhi. I love going to art galleries; not because I understand art, though I like to pretend that I do. Art galleries bring out the philosophical, hopeless romantic and hopeful side of me. Latching onto the hope that beauty, contrary to what everyone says, is eternal and Delhi is living proof of this. I go to Triveni Kala Sangam, Jaipur House, and Lodhi Art District only to find myself in the arms of Lodhi Garden adoring the tombs with the people I have come to love the most.


The cherry on top of all the good things about Delhi is the metro service. One moment you are here, the other somewhere else. The entire is so perfectly connected it astounds me. While I observe the tiny details of my shoes and the dust particles that have accumulated on them, due to the lack of them getting cleaned since I simply deny them their right to look like new again, I listen to ‘She’ by Harry Styles. Physically, I am sitting on the corner seat but in my head, I can see myself dancing around like I have no care in the world.



When the song changes to ‘In a Dream’ by Troye Sivan I find myself dreaming about the things I have done in this city, the endless possibilities that this city has to offer and the most important thing that this city has given me: Myself. While at the same time I try to convince myself that I need to not care about the people sitting around and just sway to the beats, and use the polls as props. Then I lift my head, like a step back into reality away from the imaginary world that I have created inside my head, only to realise that the women’s compartment is swamped with, possibly, judgemental women.


I once saw this woman, probably the same age as I am, wearing sunglasses in the metro and while I still believe that she might have had a bad hangover, I also started wearing sunglasses during my commute just for the fun of it. Every time I look out the window to spot Qutub Minar, despite being acquainted with the fact that it is going to be right there always, the certainty of it is exhilarating.


Sometimes kids stumble inside the women's compartment with their parents chasing them with slightly embarrassed and sad yet smiling faces as if they love the fact that their child is getting to enjoy their childhood in the city of possibilities but they are worried that the child might grow up faster than they suspected and would move forward with their lives with their parents. The woman who was wearing sunglasses has now taken them off since we entered the tunnel of darkness.


What do I love the most about this city I often wonder. It might have gotten something to do with the fact that at every turn there is a museum, a monument, a gallery or a building that makes me love this city a little more every day. While we might be living in the 21st century, the love and appreciation for culture never die. Jhumkas and kurtas adorn this city like a woman on her wedding day wearing a red lehenga that weighs more than her waiting for her to-be-husband to wait for her in the mandap.


It was only after years of struggle that women had the liberty of who they wanted to be without being dictated by the likes of men. I admire the women of this city, fighting for generations just so that I enjoy my right to exist as a free being, sit in the metro and write about my love for this city in the clothes that I want to wear and not what orthodox men want and ask me to. While being a feminist is not easy but I think it is necessary for women, especially in a city where men treat women like commodities but to be anyone else other than yourself in Delhi is a shame.



When the clock strikes 10 in the morning, the scorching Delhi heat during April tries to bring out the worst in you. In the colonial building that once used to be The Alipore House, and has been like my second home, I look for an abandoned seat under a tree that would protect me from the heat that seems determined to dehydrate me. I search for the sunscreen inside my bag only to realise that I have left it at home and water is my only friend in need. Hydrating is good for your body but hydrating yourself with iced water will pierce your throat but calm your soul. You can feel the chill water going down your oesophagus while the Delhi heat tries to nullify its effect.


I cherish the flowers that bloom on the front lawn of one of the colonial buildings I love. The flowers are the colourful jewellery that adorns the white building and unlike the building that has been kept intact for over a century, the jewellery that embellishes it leaves it behind every fall only to come back every spring. I yearn for the colours while they are gone, their absence marks the onset of my seasonal depression and I am not the biggest fan of it.


However, this is not the only colonial building I love. I take the metro that finds its way to one of the most populous places in Delhi and that is when the nostalgia takes over. Before being diagnosed with Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder, I made myself familiar with the beauty of Connaught Place. I had been there several times before but the more often I went alone, the beauty of it became transparent. Walking around the complex, observing people and eating street food became an addiction. I started liking the idea of being all by myself partly because I was devoid of any optimism in my life.


In a city like Delhi, optimism comes into play when you are perpetually broke. More than a realist, you are an optimist because you know for a fact that you will live through it. That is the thing about going to college in Delhi, while the metro rides are cheap, you are still spending so much on transport that you are rendered penniless. It is the only valid justification when you happen to be a spendthrift.


Post treating yourself with vintage clothes purchased from Sarojini Nagar after bargaining that seems like an arduous task, walking around Janpath only to end up at the indo-western top stores and later DePaul's. Drinking bubble tea at Cha Bar and looking around the Oxford Book Store to satisfy your inner bibliophile and when you find that one cheap book, you take it home and it will perpetually rest on your bookshelf collecting dust.


You are meant to end up broke, it is fate. Albeit, I always find my way back to the ₹10 samosas that sit in the college canteen microwave, waiting for me to savour them with the green chutney while I sip on ₹30 bottled coffee and that’s how I know I will survive. I think this is one of the reasons I could never identify as a South Delhi girl, neither geographically nor habitually or be one of those people who go to Nehru Place for reasons other than to buy cheap electronics.



The only South Delhi I have enjoyed is The Tea Room in Hauz Khas and Devan’s at Lodhi. While most people go to Hauz Khas to drink, I like to go there to enjoy my scones with butter, and jam. I often visit the little room in the basement below The Tea Room which happens to be a vintage store to check out the postcards and vinyl collection that I know I will never buy.


Strolling around the Deer Park on an October evening, I realised that we can spot deer in that smelly place hence the name. I am very particular about my coffee and after trying several coffee roasters, I came across Devan’s website. I decided to try it and I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The magnificent thing about their coffee is that it leaves you wanting more. Being just an auto ride away from the Jor Bagh metro station, delicious coffee awaits you and if the gods are contented that day, they might gratify you with the delightful pitter patter of the sweet Delhi rains.


The food here certainly leaves you wanting more. Regardless of the greasy Biryani, the excessively sweet butter chicken and sheermal that you eat when you so excitingly go to Jama Masjid. I always go back there for almond sheermal. Every time I tell my family that I am going to Jama, they eagerly wait for me, rather than for the sheermal that they know that I won’t forget to bring it for them despite them telling me not to get it.


The thing about Delhi, is you will always feel belonged and the love that you thought was unrequited (after all, how can a city love you back), is not quite unrequited, it is rather reciprocated. I have made friends with people with contrasting personalities but there is one thing that has stayed in common throughout our love for Delhi. I find my way back to the metro station and hope for the tunnel of darkness to end so that when I am above the running road, I spot the Qutub Minar one last time before I find my way back to it, again.