Dilli Meri Jaan !

This day in 1997 ….. We got off the train at New Delhi station and a young man named Rajinder had come to pick us up. We had a couple of suitcases with some clothes, a broken heart, a non-existent bank account, and no idea if we will climb out of the deep pit of bankruptcy.

We found a house in Patparganj because hitherto unknown people, signed on our behalf. We fell sick in the first winter because we didn’t have enough warm clothes. We made new friends, we rented furniture from one of them, and we started to crawl out of the hole. Krishnan found consulting assignments, I found retail stores, we sold DKFL books, we tracked every small expense, made friends with a guy in old Delhi railway station who could get us train tickets anytime, and I cut off my shoulder length hair even smaller while Krishnan shaved all his hair off!!

We dealt with meagre earnings, the STD/PCO calls back home, frantic letters about how the bank was about to take away Dad’s house which had been given as a collateral and encouraging letters from Krishnan’s dad to both us and my dad about how that would never happen. In the midst of all this within a year of our coming to Delhi, we heard of Dhanush’s arrival …. and my prediction coming true that he would be born on April 5th between my father-in-law and my birthday. The millennium changed and Krishnan surprised me outside the GK1 Pizza Corner by coming over from IIM Ahmedabad where he was undergoing his Advanced Management program. And just as the millennium changed, my father-in-law decided to leave forever. The late night Indian Airlines ticket and Neeraj’s help with cash as we had no surplus even then, unforgettable.

Finally the dark clouds started to move away as a wind of positive developments started to blow – Krishnan getting a job with a USAID funded project and my moving into the nascent BPO industry. Somewhere I feel, Krishnan’s dad blew those dark clouds away and thats why he left when he did. All the loans repaid within a year and the down payment for our house made ! Six years of darkness is dispelled.

This is the city that brought us back from the brink of disaster, this is the city that got me back in touch with my closest friend Geetu, this is the city that gave us our passports, this is the city that taught me how to drive a car, this is the city where I discovered the meaning of “chaat”, this is the city that made Krishnan sing Hindi songs, this is the city that made Krishnan into a swimmer, this is the city that put me on the front page of many newspapers, this is the city that re-kindled our love for cycling, this is the city that inspired us to setup ShikshaDaan, this is the city that makes me smile every time I touch down or drive into it…. with all its warts, with all its challenges, with its unbreathable polluted air, with all the dark heart rending social ills, “Dilli” has my heart in its grip.

Someone asked me when I quit from Aon Hewitt if we would now settle down in Chennai and I said – “if at any time, you lose contact with me, look for me in Delhi NCR or in Himachal Pradesh, not anywhere else in India”.

Twenty years back when we landed in Delhi we were told by many that people with integrity cannot thrive in this city, that this city is a place for “showoffs”, that everyone is out to cheat you …. well, we have met some of the most genuine people in this city, we don’t have a single rupee that is black or unaccounted for but we were still able to thrive and we continue to live a non-pompous life!! Yes, there are cheats out there, yes, Delhi is about showing off, and yes, people would pull a fast one on you here if you let them – BUT, these things happen in all the cities. It was in Chennai that we were cheated by wealthy people when we shut down  our businesses, it was in Mumbai that someone tried to steal my purse and it was in Hyderabad that dad was shunted from hospital to hospital when he had his haemorrhage and I don’t want to start on the wonders of Bengaluru at all (girls molested on New Year’s eve…. foaming lakes…. unaccounted money… etc etc). All cities have issues, and Delhi NCR is no different.

But no other city in India has thousands of years of history buried underneath, and nearly 1500+ historical monuments that are not buried, no other city is as beautiful (just drive around Shantipath on a crisp March morning as the flowers bloom), and no other city is as welcoming and warm … and for us, no other city has been as lucky. So this is home and for nomads at heart, that is something.

Time does fly – feels like yesterday that we shook hands with Rajinder, then a stranger and now a very dear friend.

Disclaimer : We vote in Haryana and we didn’t vote in the Delhi elections that elected the current CM :):):)


15 thoughts on “Dilli Meri Jaan !”

  1. What a lovely post, Bindu – there really is something about this city – and it’s home!

    Shalini Sahay Bose

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  2. Really great reading this Bindu, it was a refresher as I knew parts of it but was heartening to read the complete story . Wish you and Krishnan even greater successess in life. 🙂

    • Thanks Ranjeet – of course you and the KVHV gang know many other parts of this story plus you are all a big part of the journey. Friendships like ours that last over an entire lifetime are unmatched.

  3. What I’ve not been able to fathom out is how you were able to accumulate so much money that you were able to retire from corporate life at the middle levels and acquire so many prime properties across India. Your integrity shines through so I would like you to share the secret of your financial acumen.
    Would like to follow you on Facebook. Could you provide the link to your profile?

    • Ashoke Ji, just to set the record straight – if I have given the impression that we own many “prime” properties across India, thats a wrong impression. The financial acumen was learnt because of the bankruptcy and its a single statement – save first and then spend. We also try very hard not to waste money on useless stuff.

  4. Almost two years ago I read a book about Delhi and was utterly fascinated. When I finally decided to end my days of saying “Someday I will go to India” by picking a day, it was Delhi that I arrived in.

    While I was there, I think I saw much of what you saw. So many people talked about how so many people would try to cheat me – especially as a tourist. And yes, a few people tried, but more people did what I would consider “trying really hard to make a sale” and sometimes at a higher than normal price. At the same time, for every person who did that, I met several who were kind and incredibly helpful, showing me around and telling me about their city.

    The history also really spoke to me. The book that made me want to visit had lots of history within it. But when I got there I saw so many historic sites just wandering around – sites that made me want to read and learn more. I can see a vicious cycle starting where reading more makes me want to go back to Delhi and then visiting makes me want to read more ad infinitum. As habits go in one’s life, I think that’s a pretty good one. Hopefully I’ll be going back there around this time next year.

    I often dream of living in India for a few years and ask myself where I would live if I had the chance. Bangalore has my work, Varanasi felt much like a small town to me in how easily I settled in to the daily routine there. Mumbai would be a great place for my partner to live as she’s a storyteller and there’s a bit of a storytelling scene there. But if it were 100% up to me, Delhi would be my destination. So many interesting people to meet and what a great place to indulge my history habit.

    • Delhi it should be !! Bangalore is unlovable + you will spend more time on the road waiting to get home than at home. Mumbai exhausted me because too many people are packed into a small space. I love Mumbai’s no-nonsense culture and those folks work incredibly hard, but I can’t live there. Varanasi can be visited from Delhi. 🙂

      So there you go, I behaved like a typical Indian – giving unsolicited advise and almost insisting that you take it. Hahahaha.

      Stay anywhere in this blessed land. I love all of it and there is history and stories and amazing food in every nook and cranny of this country !


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