‘When I First Came To Delhi, I Realised That I Was Actually A Bihari’

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Illustration: Uzma Mohsin

WHEN I was young, I loved reading names of places in my atlas, circling them with colour pencils in the hope of visiting them some day. While places like New York City, the Bermuda Triangle, Switzerland and Trinidad held me in awe, there was one place closer home that caught my interest, time and again. Delhi, the capital of our country.

Whether it was reading names like Chandni Chowk, Daryaganj and Paharganj in books as addresses of publishing houses or learning about historical monuments, dynasties and their kings in history texts or even looking at photographs of relatives who visited the city, I was always familiarising myself with the geography of the centre of our great democracy.

When everyone else was packing their bags for Bengaluru, Pune and Kolkata to study further, I knew it was my chance to go to Delhi. Like the gushing waves of the seas menace but attract you, there was something magnetic about this city which pulled me.

It was when I landed in Delhi for the first time that I realised I was actually a ‘Bihari’. From questions like, “What do you eat in Bihar?”, “How come your pronunciation is so good?” and, to top it all, “Are you really from Bihar?”, I heard them all.

Initially, I took offence at all these questions. I was flabbergasted by what these Delhiites thought of Biharis! We produce the most IITians and IAS officers, I would say in our defence. And, come on, Jamshedpur is mini-Mumbai and other such excuses.

There was this constant urge in me to keep my identity intact. I would, invariably, break into my Bihari accent, which many of my friends grew fond of and still love listening to.

I realised, however, that there is nothing which is quintessentially Delhi — be it culture, people or even the weather. They have all come here from different parts of the world at different times and Delhi has made them their own. Forever.

Over the years, I have hated Delhi for many reasons, the weather topping the list. I can’t stand such extreme temperatures and as a result, fall ill every month. Traffic is another problem for which I have cursed Delhi no end. And do I even have to mention the city’s long-standing ills like bureaucracy, red-tapism, how it is unsafe for women and has a good population of phonies, so on and so forth?

But at some point — between waiting in queues for hours to get my passport made and haggling with auto-drivers — I fell in love with this city.

I didn’t quite realise when the ‘Bihariness’ in me took a backseat and the Delhiite in me started growing.

Between waiting in queues to get my passport made and haggling with auto-drivers, I fell in love with Delhi

Delhi has given me a lot. It offered me the best university I could study at where I met some of the best people I ever could. People who didn’t even know me, but have been with me through thick and thin ever since.

The city has given me friends who hugged me when I was low and lent me a shoulder to cry on when I needed one.

Delhi has given me numerous opportunities — to learn, to travel, to explore. It has nurtured my potential and made me a better Bihari — to say the least.

Echoing Aravind Adiga’s sentiments in The White Tiger, Delhi has, without a doubt, been my best friend through my stay here. It has cried with me and suffered my pangs of insomnia with me. It has laughed with me and celebrated my victories with me. It has caressed me, patted me and kissed me. I know I will never be able to leave Delhi, even if I move away. A part of me will always be in Delhi and a part of Delhi will always be in me. And since there are times when clichés must be used — Delhi will always be my home away from home.

Mahvish Rahman is 24. She is a freelance media professional in Delhi

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