Friday, 19 July 2013

If Cities Were Men...

If cities were men, I would have dated Mumbai; I would have married Lucknow.

The statement above is not a quote. Unless of course, you already consider me quoteworthy. In which case, this is definitely a quote with a deep philosophical thought and must not be misinterpreted to implicate Choti Mata of lewd thoughts.

It is a Facebook status that I had put up a couple of months ago.

The reason why it is put out here is not to highlight the anthropomorphic albeit imaginary promiscuity of Choti Mata. The reason why it is the starting point of this post is because of the interesting thought that had triggered the compulsive need of letting out this very obscure and mostly irrelevant status for public admiration. The thought that said that every city has about as much character as a living breathing human being (I refrain from saying man because that would defeat the allusion)—the very same thought that leads to movies like Kahaani that actually treat the city of their setting as an independent powerful character or more recently Raanjhana.

I am no globetrotting soul. Apart from the fact that the phrase ‘trotting Choti Mata’ never created a very flattering imagery in my head; this was also because of an almost clinical travel phobia. Not ‘I get cranky when I travel’ kind of phobia but ‘I puke at the mere sight of an airport’ kind of phobia. And for that extreme, I have still managed to be at a number of places—Lucknow, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Indore and Kolkata.

Cities vibrate with their own distinctive energy and character. Inevitably, they inspire emotions of myriad hues. And hence the thought—what if they were men? What if in some magical parallel world, these cities were indeed men?

And here, I reiterate, if cities were men, I would have married Lucknow. Dependable, sophisticated, suave and cultured. It has a bureaucratic disposition and air of royal authority. It might lack the wild ambition of high rise. But, what it lacks in ambition, it makes up for in its ‘take home to Mommy’ quality. But even more importantly, In other words, an ideal husband material!

Mumbai is quite the opposite. Given my penchant for men like Lucknow, it was ironic that my affair with Mumbai was love at first sight. Creative and throbbing with restless energy, it is the epitomic wild child—the kind of men that are fascinating and scary at the same time. If Mumbai were man, it would be the kind you have torrential affairs with. The man who is rich, innovative and wildly attractive. The man who can draw a portrait with as much panache as he strums the guitar which in turn is as smooth as his money filled coffers. Mumbai is the man of all dreams…and yet it is so unpredictable that there just cannot be a lasting marriage. Mumbai is the guy who takes you to bed (and you love it!) but you can’t take him home. Its enigmatic facets hide as much as they reveal and this enigma has a deadly air of transient attraction. Which is why, we tread carefully when it comes to Mumbai—the man and Mumbai—the city; or what is left behind is a scar that refuses to heal.

And then there is Delhi. If I were to roll all the clichés and notions associated with Delhi into a man, the result would be an unmitigated disaster of monstrous proportion.  Delhi would then be the man who earns truck-loads of money by the day (by means that sway dangerously from the limits of legality) and is a roving, raping, murdering psychopath by the night. Delhi can be a lot of things— a politician, a bureaucrat or a consummate businessman. But its identity during the nights—literal and figurative, remains unaltered. This is one city I am grateful is not a man.

But there is another Delhi, the one that is visible only when we look beyond the clichés and the pre-conceived notions. That Delhi which still has a heart that justifies the alliteration “dilwaalon ki dilli’. If I were to think of Dilli as a man, this would be the guy I would want to talk about. The guy with a raucous (sometimes cringe-worthy but fun nonetheless) sense of humor. And the guy with food…lots of food on the table…all the time! The guy who is an easy connect for all North Indians just because he symbolizes everything that is so ‘North’—from Punjab/Haryana to UP/Bihar. And despite this rather strong north bias, this is the guy who can practically get along with anyone, irrespective of their origin,  so long as they have a sense of humor.

The Delhi I am talking about is easy, helping and fun. It is the guy who loves money, but in a good way and is consequently very hard working, again in a good way.  This is the guy which cares for the people he gets to know—the Delhi which is uber modern in growth but has retained that fine touch of our culture and tradition. At its best, Delhi is the guy any north Indian girl would consider marrying.

Any north Indian girl—barring Choti Mata.

I like Delhi, despite all that is purportedly wrong with it. But, with Delhi, I could never have a roaring affair like Mumbai or a simmering connect like Lucknow. It may be partly owing to its reputation because even at its best, Delhi can never be the guy I would stay out late with—unlike Mumbai, which makes me feel safe, however illusory.

Dear Delhi, you know how they say—it’s not you, it’s me.

Delhi can be a great brother. Which is actually a good strategy given the reputation Delhi has managed to earn for itself. But as far as I am concerned, Delhi has been and will always be a great friend—even when it is not actually a man.

I can’t conclude this post without mentioning Kolkata—the only city which I think cannot be a man. If Kolkata has to be anything, it can be a woman. The very essence of this city throbs with feminine mystique. Kolkata is loud, cultured, intelligent, reticent, modern, cocooned, independent, enigmatic and feverishly clinging to its past—a bundle of extreme paradoxes only a woman can be.

Is there a point somewhere here?

Honestly, no. It was just an idea lying in my unused folders for really long. But to keep the tradition of always finding a point alive, no matter how forced—I will conclude this with a point.

We spent too much time in our lives going places—literally and figuratively. We hardly take time to look around. If at all we do, it is mostly and exclusively for serving our critical faculties. The place is too cramped, too open, too crowded, too quiet, too polluted, too clean…

If only we could take some time out and appreciate what each of these places stand for in spirit and in form, it might just be an absolute eye opener. Actually wanting them to be transformed into ‘man’ may be taking things too far. But who knows, you might just be pleasantly surprised!