The dust motes float through the air, only visible when the rays of sunlight penetrate the room from a particular angle, and I trace them with my fingers. I choose not to go outside, in fear of doubling over and choking because of the sulphurous toxins we’ve come to believe is synonymous with ‘air’.
I can hear the incessant blaring of horns (now done just for fun or to let out aggression) through the closed windows and walls of my house. Silence seems like a long lost friend for those of us residing in the capital city of India; we are so used to the boisterous voices of twenty five million people all blurring together that if silence greets us, our first response would be to question what is wrong. Children’s voices ring through the house, shouting from the slum just beside our relatively posh locality – the slum that divides us by just a wall physically, but by much more mentally.
Most of us hate the icy chill winter brings, the smog that makes it difficult to breathe; we cling onto the dream of ‘summer’, forgetting what it really feels like in our haste to approach it. Then, before we know it, we’re sweltering in 47 degrees Celsius, forced to stay sheltered in our houses with all the air conditioners and fans on, terrified of collapsing and getting a heatstroke if we actually left the house. It is at times like these that we feel the worst for the hundreds of beggars on the street – beggars who end up dying, shaking with fever as the heat seeps into their bones.
I sit, still tracing the dust motes, as I think about the city that’s been deemed the most polluted in the world. My city. Even though we face climatic and environmental trauma and are deemed ‘undeveloped’ and ‘third world’, Delhi is a place of cultures. It can’t really be described until you’ve seen the roaring temperatures, haggled with the rikshaw drivers, or just sneaked into a bar because anyone below 25 years is ‘underage’. Of course, one must also take note of the painfully long traffic jams, the auto rickshaws always speeding on the wrong side of the road and the camels/horses/dogs/cats/cows casually strolling by while we have near-death accidents trying to swerve away from them (they say that if you can drive in Delhi, you can drive anywhere in the world).
Even though I’m not an Indian national, I’ve fallen in love with this odd, toxic and frightening city that I proudly call my home. Delhi is a part of me. It resides within me, and this, in my opinion, is blatantly obvious by my love for chaat and samosas and my tolerance for noise. In a more poetic way, it can be seen in every inch of my existence. It can be seen in my eyes, my tear tracks bearing an uncanny resemblance to the now near-dry Yamuna river; it can be seen in my palms, where my callouses do justice to the dusty green hills of the Aravalis; and it can be seen in the dip of my shoulders, seeming funnily enough like the haphazard, uncoordinated roads lining the city.
Delhi is more than what people think it is. They may deem it the “rape capital” of the world (I’m not going to deny it), or the most polluted city in the world (again, I’m sure my lungs are wrecked by simply breathing), but to us, Delhi will always be a powerful capital, twenty five million strong, filled with emotions.
Can you imagine? Twenty five million of us, all squeezed into a tiny spot on the world map, all united by our noise and our language and our emotions and above all, our ability to love.


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