National Capital Turns 100 : A century goes by

This post is written for Blogeshwar and Anubooti

On December 15, 1911 King George v laid the foundation stone for New Delhi. Now 100 years after its inception the national capital of Delhi has overspilled its boundaries and has layers within layers. On one hand it is aggressive competitive energetic and violent and on the other  vibrant colorful seeped in nostalgia and old world charm.

Even with population of 17 million people from within and outside India Delhi has never closed its doors to anyone and as it gently mixes all new elements it grows culturally. Anyone who resides in Dilli becomes a ‘dilliwala’  irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

Delhi is a beautiful kaleidoscope of sounds, colors, people, places, cuisines, festivals all through the year. One gets fantastic exposure to different cultures, ideas and one can experience so many diverse worlds with this big city.

Delhi’s mood varies from locality to locality. The by-lanes of Old Delhi are like a surreal art house movie taking you to a different time zone and then there are sprawling parks, university campuses , the ridge areas thick with wood and grass and all their unsolved  mysteries.

Although the city has residents from all over the country , the Punjabis who thronged the city post partition are the most visible and audible lot. The big fat panjabi weddings, the fashionable aunties ranging from Karol Bag to Defense Colony and all that goes with their kitty party culture . It adds spice to life whatever one may say.

Dillwalas are a special breed. Warm hearted  generous and outgoing and yet ferocious  bad mouthed ready to kill. Deadly combination which makes the outsiders wonder what stuff they are made of.

We all know about the cultural heritage , the history and the geography of the city. We know of its rich cuisine ranging from the sumptuous stuff from the walled city to the swanky restaurants and food joints of pompous South Delhi.

The city holds many secrets. Places waiting to be explored like the Purana Quila park, Jamali Kamali park and all those big and little monuments scattered all over Delhi. Apart from these are the usual dense tangle of tombs, mosques, baolis(wells), old gates and forts there are old temples, gurudwaras, churches and much more.

The city comes alive during festive season.  Eid-ul-Fitr, Diwali, dussera , Holi ,  Christmas and all the other minor ones. The city prays, fasts, gorges on great food and celebrates together. Everyone is drenched in the color of bonhomie and reverence irrespective of their religion.

I grew up with Old Delhi food and it is still unmatched . The sweets – imarti, jalebees, rasmalai, rabri,  khurchan , pedas, nankhatai and all the other mouth-watering delicacies which are specialties of the walled city . The namkeens – power packed samosas, kachoris, matar kulcha, chole bhature, kebabs and the variety of mughlai food.

Then we have the famous butter chicken ( not meant for the weak hearted) 😀 and the lassi malai marke and the delicious kulfi with faluda. There is something sensuous about the street food of Delhi including the bhuna bhutta ( roasted corn cobs) , shakarkandi (roasted sweet potato), sweet corns and momos . You actually can not understand this unless you make a visit to the capital and relish these. There is so much variety of food here that one can go on about it and write a book on it .

I have been to places tucked away in small lanes away from the madding crowd , places which dish out wonders. Places in Paharganj like the German Bakery there . absolute heaven for foodies like me.

The dhabas have become rare now and I miss the little tandoors which used to be a part of almost all localities. We still have some in other parts of Delhi but South Delhi lacks such simple pleasures as far as I know.

Every region of Delhi from Central fast paced Connaught place to the sloping tin roofs of laid back Kashmere gate , the posh South Delhi and the ruins of Mehruli  to the Step-child East Delhi  all the areas have a very distinctive way of life.

There is something else about the power-hungry Delhi , a dark side . Amidst all the beauty the city is divided in hearts. It is my personal feeling. The South Delhi person will look down upon an East Delhi or a North Delhi one . Students from University’s  North Campus hardly mingle with the South Delhi college students. There is always a prestige issue. Somewhere a big ego clash. There is a definite divide between the Hindi speaking and the so-called “modern” english speaking people and then there are people from other states especially Bihar and UP who are normally considered down market .

The rich have become richer and the poor are still there where they were 100 years back. The middle class is swollen with its own importance.

The residents of old Delhi consider all others outsiders. They say we don’t have it in us. Something is amiss maybe that tehzeeb , that feeling of brotherhood and warmth of togetherness is lacking in today’s so-called dilliwalas.

The city tops in crime. molestation, rapes, killings road rage you name it Delhi has it all. Women are unsafe in the capital. Very rarely one finds a stranger ready to help. The trust issue is missing completely especially in New Delhi.

Roads have become wider, hearts smaller. the high-rise buildings, the swanky malls and the development to make it a great modern city has made holes in the very fabric of Delhi that was .

Although communities gather for festivals etc yet there is a void among people.

Delhi is intolerant in some areas, its residents small-minded and untrustworthy. It is strange that so many cultures mingle in the main stream like little rivulets in a mighty river and yet one can not see them as one.

Life here in the capital has changed so dramatically in last few years. It is sad to see that a Muslim or a Kashmiri will not find a place on rent so easily in the capital. People are skeptical , judgmental and prejudiced  at times.

There is an unrest in the hearts of people. . The city is unsafe.

Something dark flows as an undercurrent in the minds of people here . Something that is mysterious and dangerous.

It is all about money and power. It is like a gas chamber ready to burst and yet there is that clam and serenity that makes Delhi what is it. Difficult to comprehend and describe .

Amidst noise of traffic a city wakes from slumber and slowly goes through the mundane routines of life.

Disconnected, and undistinguished the ruins of past and the hundred year old trees watch the city of immigrants and their oblivious nature . Apprehensive about their survival the trees wonder when they will be cut down to give way to a mall or an  expressway. Each group of immigrants  tries to establish their culture and mark their territory rather than embracing  the existing one.

In this daily hustle of living for survival the city is forgotten , its culture and  history kept aside.

I love the city , its natural beauty ( whatever is remaining) , its seasons and riot of colorful blooms, its old world charm and modern facilities , its food and culture but I have

reservations about its people.

Delhi is a chameleon metropolis changing colors at the blink of an eye.

A city with global aspirations — and one that is a veritable melting pot of Indian culture – Delhi is a fascinating adventure of people shaping the city and vice-versa.

There has been a slow  transformation of the old city of tehzeeb to  the ”you-know-who-my-father-is” culture . People come here to build their dreams and in that process an old city is slowly dying an unnatural death. The original Delhi is fighting a losing battle of survival  in the urban jungle.

In the last 100 years the original Delhi has slipped back in time to give way to the so-called “world-class New Delhi” the power capital of India. Urbanization has made rapid strides but the old charm and allure of this beautiful City is lost forever.

I look at Delhi’s landscape under the orange hue of fading winter sun  and try to unravel the mystery and the present surge of my city.


I leave you with lines from Wordsworth’s poem The world is too much with us


The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!


16 thoughts on “National Capital Turns 100 : A century goes by

  1. That was amazing stuff. There is so much to the heritage of our national capital.
    And congrats, i just happened to see that you are published.
    let me try and grab a copy.

    I will let u know my feedback on that as well 🙂

    Thank you Muddassir .
    I will be delighted to read your views on my work. Do read and get back to me. Glad you liked the post.


  2. its a blog that every delhiwallah must read.. in fact everyone must read it.. a city is a soul.. delhi is the heart of india.. u have summed up everything so fine.. very very fine.. the nuances of the old world charm, the street food, the collision of interest.. the faith, the culture, the ego, the big city dreams.. delhi is a big city, misunderstood, forlorn n waiting to explode.. its beautiful, big, majestic but getting heartless.. one very fine post i read since long.. my post, taking a cue from ur suggestion was written in a concise way to shatter myths regarding notions ppl have about cities.. but then i am sure delhi can not be this indifferent.. it had after all ppl like u.. gonna read this again.. truly amazing.. am gonna surely come over n feel the city of my own heart, feel the air n the warmth that is going amiss.. but then delhi is delhi..

    Wow that is lot of praise Vivek. Thank you my dear. Delhi is a dream adventure .If I write about each aspect of it , it would need a separate blog. I will visit your post today. Glad you wrote about your city.
    I would love to take you around my city and hope you keep your promise too.


  3. What a lovely read ! I have been a Delhiite for many years and moving away from the city after marriage did leave me in despair for a long time — Love Delhi or Leave Delhi— U sure cannot Ignore the city ! It was a trip down memory lane !!!

    You are so right Priya. I love the city lots. Yes it has its darker aspects but still which city doesn’t have all that. Glad you liked the post. Keep coming for more.


  4. hi there, I have spent my childhood in Delhi and it is pretty nostalgic to read about Delhi- What I feel sorry is the attitude of the people- As a south Indian, I felt unwanted there- People trying to judge me based on the color of my skin and the accent of my language…I struggled to be a part of Delhi- though I am far far away from Delhi right now, I somehow don’t miss the place.

    Yes Suchitra I agree with you. People have reservations. I think I mentioned that. First thing, all people coming frm southern India are madrasi as per the north Indians. ( I talk about the masses) and the typical Panjabi attitude is of judging the people by color. Though there are exceptions.


  5. Delhi, nation capital is always a place i feel very good about.. and after reading this post of urs… I feel we all should try to maintain the real beauty of Delhi… heart of our nation.. 🙂


  6. wonderful post! i m reading this post in mumbai…and it makes me a feel a proud Delhiite like always 🙂
    no matter where we go, our soul lingers in saddi dilli…rite?
    once again, hopping onto ur blog has inspired me…thnks a lot for that. happy new year to u and all the very best for blogeshwar!


  7. I love your transitions and clarity. I have been producing for Ghost Writers for a while now, and they pay me well to write blog posts like this, or content articles. I clear $100-$200 on a awful morning.
    Judging by your ability with the english language, you may enjoy doing the same.
    It wouldnt hurt to check them out.Here are the details


  8. I love your transitions and quality. I have been producing for Ghost Writers for a while now, and they pay me well to write blog posts like this, or articles. I clear $100-$200 on a bad day.
    Judging by your love for the english language, you may enjoy doing the same.
    It wouldnt hurt to check them out.Here are the details


  9. well i moved to delhi last year for education purposes and i m lovin it..though i feel lonely out here but then the city has much to see and i remember i came back to this city 6 years back when the metro railways just started and now its running in its full swing…though there are lot of things to be improved…the outer areas are in particular clean but the inner city sides are still filthy and unhygienic…the public should treat this city with respect as the national capital…i believe the infrastructure has improved a lot and it would keep on improving…after 5-10 years the city would be terrific as terrific it is now…but yeah there’s a problem with the attitude of the people out here…like you know…its nicknamed the self centred city…people dont really care about anything…i felt bad about it…but its a lively city with lots of traffic and chaos all over….i hope things would be much better soon..


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