18 July, 2008

So I plunged myself head first into this city and everything seems strange and everyone seems to be staring at me with distrust, and their eyes say to me, “You don’t belong here.” Had the same thing not happened in Paris, I would not have recognized the trend. I realized, of course, that it is my own distrust and my own fear that I need to overcome. I need to grow into the city by taking it in, like one grows into new shoes by wearing them and walking around.

I took the Delhi Metro to go visit Connaught Place, a large central round-about, the equivalent of Paris’s Champs Elysees, as it were. There were expensive shops and though the prices weren’t as high as Paris, I could still not indulge. There were all the expensive brands, there were the usual McDonald’s and KFCs, there were street vendors selling all kinds of things, there was an underground market with less expensive shops that sold copies of the brands being sold above, and there was a park in the center of the round-about, where girls and boys sat and held hands (in various combinations), and parents chased after their kids.

Except a few things (for example, a group of Hindu religious men clad in orange who marched by chanting and crying out slogans), this could very well have been Pakistan. I even stopped to ask directions from policemen, and they joked around with me, which felt bizarre. I didn’t dare to take my camera with me today; even though I laughed off the horror stories my grandmother told us to dissuade me from coming here, in which Pakistani boys are arrested and accused of spying and locked in jail forever, it still was a concern for me. I suppose as long as I am dressed like a photographer, and don’t take pictures in Cantonment areas, I should be fine. Of course, if I stop posting here, and you don’t hear from me, you know what happened!

I sat in CafĂ© Coffee Day, writing, sketching, reading (I am near the end of my novel, and it’s getting very, very interesting!), and registered how differently people treat waiters in this part of the world. Parisian waiters would kick them out immediately. It is a reminder of a class society, where people are respected for their social position and not their personality. The same trend is prevalent in Pakistan.

I was in need for someone to talk to. I have acquired this really useful technique of striking up conversations with complete strangers. I can tell if they are bored and would like to talk too. I talked to an American girl from D.C who was at a travel agency where I went to ask for a map. I talked to a Delhi college student in the Metro, who was really fascinated to meet a Pakistani. He confirmed that people treat you according to your appearance. If you appear rich and powerful, and have that attitude, people will bow down and take orders, if you appear old, you can enter bars, and so on.

Tomorrow I am going to the Khoj International Artists Association, which is located in a sort of arts neighborhood from what I understand. I spoke to them on the phone today and they are expecting me at 11am. This place is close to where Uday lives and since he is off from work tomorrow I will probably see him too.


andy chen said...

ah, cafe coffee day. i remember my friends telling me that they have really good chocolate cake though i never tried it.

it's really interesting to see your take on feelings of "otherness" given that you actually speak the language. your observations are much deeper than mine were -- i think i expended a lot of effort in just trying to make myself understood.

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