Thursday, February 16, 2012

New Delhi and Washington DC - my Perceptions

My cousin M introduced me to a friend of hers, who lives close to where I do in the District. During the course of conversation over dinner, our talk veered on how Delhi is as a city. Delhi is the capital of India and is situated in the northern part of the country. One of M's friends had told her that she would be careful in a city like Delhi (or something to that effect. I forget what she said exactly). I echoed her thoughts. When I worked in Bombay (yes, I still call it Bombay, rather than Mumbai), the head office was in Gurgaon, and so I went to Delhi a few times and have also been to Delhi during family trips.

There is something about Delhi that would naturally make me more guarded. I never for a minute felt that I was not originally from Bombay during the more than three years that I lived there, but Delhi definitely made me feel like that. Like me, most people in Bombay would walk around freely, not explicitly thinking of their safety. Being a woman, and not from Delhi, I used to be careful every time I was there.
What I noticed in Delhi was that everyone knows a politician or someone in the political circle. The minute you are about to enter in an argument or squabble with a person, the first thing that the person may tell you is, "You probably don't want to mess with me as my connections go a long way and I know politician X and Y from A or B party political party." I used to feel like I was one of those people who didn't know any politician, and was all by myself.

This is entirely my perception - but I feel like people from Delhi can outwardly be very sweet to you, but I would be wary of their intentions and how they would react to a situation. If you asked a simple question, you might just be countered with several other questions - asking your intent of that question and a simple situation could just get convoluted in no time. To tell it simply, the straightforwardness seemed amiss from the people. The other thing was that if you traveled by auto rickshaw drivers in Delhi, you would have to haggle for the travel fare. I saw this when I went in 2009. My friend T had told me about it, so I was aware of it. It is not as if the rickshaws are devoid of meters. They do have meters, but they just don't use them. Thankfully I didn't let the driver get the better of me. Whereas in Bombay, you pay the auto rickshaw driver by the meter.

That's why, when I decided to make the move to Washington DC, which is the capital of the United States, this thought that, 'What if DC is like Delhi?' kept coming in my mind. And I wanted to live in a Bombay-like city. Before coming here, I used to wonder if here too people would be more than eager to associate themselves with a politician (even if s/he is a wannabe), and I had to be guarded 24X7. Thankfully, in the first month itself, my thoughts were put to rest. I have felt safe on the Metro and when I come home after it gets dark (Irritatingly enough, it used to get dark by 5 PM till about two weeks back!) I have had a smooth transition from the mid-west to DC and am enjoying work and what this city has to offer.

Please note that what I write on this blog are entirely my opinions.

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