Delhi – A Farrago of CivilisationEhaab Qadeer
The delicacy of Delhi customs is that it is a mirror of the tradition of India as a whole. Folks from across the country come to Delhi to bring their own distinctive heritage along. Nevertheless, Delhi also has its own cultural and societal norms which makes this very city one of a kind. As the iconic title track directed by legendary AR Rehman of the iconic movie Delhi-6 vocalizes “Yeh Sheher Nahi Mehfil Hain” speaks for itself. The dialogue mechanism of the people of this city makes a stranger feel at home. The late-night discussions at the chai joint across the street during the chilly winter and the morning bulletins discourse in the metros has its own bearing. Also, the cultural blend of the city makes the air distinctively cosmopolitan. For instance, a layman could never draw a contrast between CR Avenue of Kolkata and CR Park in Delhi. Every Bengali would deem home in CR Park. A bountiful Bengali culture dwells CR Park which makes one feel like a whole new Kolkata in Delhi.
The city is in its own unique geographical formation, sharing its borders with mainly two-state that are Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. But again, the distance to states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh are not so significant either. This cultural and societal entwinement immortalizes Aristotle’s social theories altogether. People here are always up for dialogues on social and political affairs. The chai joint is always vivid and lively at any given hour of the day. Any bloke in the city will ponder upon realpolitik, the people here may not have read books and journals on societal norms and gauges but they study the society in itself intrinsically. The cultural sentimentality of a “Dilli Walaah” will also be outstanding wherever she/he goes, as it is said – “You can take someone out of Dilli, but you cannot take Dilli out of them”– that is the gravity of the city.
The relevance of the city with its entrenched culture goes far beyond the depiction of an individual. Numerous movies, telefilms, or television series for that matter of fact have showcased Delhi’s cultural diversity at length.
A dialogue from another exalted movie Fanaa, in which Aamir Khan played the role of the tourist guide in the first half of the movie where he says “Mughal se leke British tak, jo bhi Hindustan aaya hain…Delhi mein khoon ki holi khel kar aaya hain” which emphasizes the diversity and underlines the relevance of the city since then. Mughals and British were the two prominent forces who ruled India in medieval and modern history respectively.
The language, the food, the monuments, fairs and festivals of this city is much assorted compared to any other metropolitan cities of the country. Delhi localities also speak this very unique language known as ‘Hinglish’, which is made up of 40% English, 30% Hindi, 20% indecipherable wordplays and the rest 10% is purely made-up lingo. Also, fairs and festivals celebrated in the city adds magic to its tradition. May that be the quintessential Chhat Puja of Bihar or Durga Puja of West Bengal, may that be Punjabi Lohri or Muslims’ Eid. The divine acceptance of the city is what makes the national capital feel home for everyone.
The monuments of the city further underscore the tradition and rich culture of the city. It is the diversity that makes Delhi so lively and colourful. Speaking of the monumental culture of Delhi, some persist as palatial memorials to lost empires and dynasties, rest are now scantly more than exalted rockeries. There have been more than a hundred-years legacy of rulers like Mughals and then British – they came, they saw, they conquered and engineered new cities of their own just to hammer the point home. The locality of today’s affluent South Delhi was then a dispersed barren, dusty plain. Back then Edward Lear – as an artist, rather than a writer of goofy lines in 1874 and was in dismay by the “endless heaps of ruin; the countless tombs; the small amount – at least apparently- of the population”. But today numerous remains are enmeshed together by the cities unwavering expansion and population going above 20 Million, so one needs to know where to look. Nearly, every dynasty wanted a city named after them. Delhi itself started at what’s now Mehrauli Archaeological Park. It could fill a day in itself; nearly 200 acres include the site of 11th century Lal Kot and are spread with tombs and mosques. The best known of them is the Qutub Minar, a sandstone minaret of the 13th century, shooting up like a rocket. However, Edward Lear had a rare moment of Delhi Delight sighting Qutub Minar where he called it a “Wonderful Column”, a “chef-d’oeuvre”. Gen Zers spends time around the park absorbed in their electronic virtual world and elderly people having a break during the weekend. The cultural legacy of this city is cemented big time, only herculean sorcery or a political fiasco could breach the traditional substratum of the mighty Delhi.
Photos by Maryam Khan