They say, Mumbai never goes to sleep. I think it sleeps in the morning. I belong to Delhi. And, I believe that a city that never sleeps should be Delhi. Because; I have never seen the roads vacant. Never! Secluded? Yes. Vacant? Never.
Today, I woke up early. At about 4 a.m. before the crack of dawn. I don’t know what it is, may be, it is one of those days when I want to spend time alone. And no, I am not upset or disturbed. I just want to enjoy my company. It is a typical Mid-November morning.
In a season like this, a sweatshirt is enough, but I will still feel cold. Since I have grown up most parts in this city, I can say that a winter early morning in Delhi is the best. There is a strange, yet mild fragrance of musk and wood in the air. Like something is burning; but with an air of weird fragrance garnished with smoke of pollution.
I decide to quickly ready myself up and take a stroll across the streets of Delhi. I rub my eyes, trying to keep them open. I drag myself out of the bed that feels so cozy. Waking up from a warm bed in a chilling winter morning in Delhi feels like a sharp object cutting off every part of your skin. I remove my blanket and the cold air makes my lungs jump. What follows is a dozed off effort to feel that I really want to do it. I quickly finish off brushing my teeth and splashing ice cold water on my face. It feels sharp against my skin and my eyes burn as the beautiful siesta forcefully makes a way out of them.
I wear my shoes and quickly pick up the home keys. I am good to go. It is 4.45 a.m. I decide if it is a good decision at all to go alone and wander the streets of this city that has a much maligned image? I argue, but my heart wins the battle. It feels as if an alcoholic is granted mid-night permission to a tavern.
I make way to the main road. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, but all I wanted to do today was experience the little things around me. My hands are tucked tightly around my body. I am trying to hug myself. There is still no sensation in my feet. It is so cold at this time. The city seems to be engulfed in a blanket of deep sombre. Only the temple priests and infants are awake at this time, apart from those parents of infants who are still secretly accusing each other for having a sensual night at all.
I take a right turn to the shops that are still closed. Apart from one or two shopkeepers, who are touching the ground in prayer and unlocking the bolt of the shutter, there is nothing else. I want my cutting chai. I know a man who would be putting his kettle on fire right now. I reach this chai stall. The old man was up even before me, perhaps. He has cleaned the kettle and turned on the gas stove that has just one burner. The bigger gas is for bread toast and pakora. There is another single burner stove, dedicated only to his huge kadhai that will serve samosas all day.
“Uncle, one chai, please!” I ask him for a kadak cup of hot chai. There’s nothing better than fog and chai in the winter morning! I sit on the bench next to his gas stove. The fire from stove is bliss; especially when the chilling bench has sent shivers up to my spine. The ginger cutting chai caresses my throat. I hold the glass with both my hands, trying to warm myself. Next to me, a beggar with tattered old rug is trying to fit tightly in it while lighting his beedi.
I walk past this tea stall now. A lane of rickshaws wait at the left turn I take. One rickshaw-wallah sleeps uncomfortably on his rickshaw. His old and torn blanket hangs from the rickshaw. A street dog is adjusting into the hung blanket.
A usually noisy city is gradually waking up to the day break as sun makes a peek-a-boo from the sky. The fog is settling down on the city in its glory, painting it almost shaman. A monk in orange clothes rubs his eyes and folds his hands towards the Sun in his first prayer. His white beard looks almost surreal. I take an auto-rickshaw towards South Delhi. Hundreds of pigeons have started flocking the pavement in search of their food. I want to sit at this pavement amidst these birds.
I pass through a few old historical buildings. The sunrays craft a beautiful shadow of these buildings on the road. I stop at Hauz Khas. I walk to the historical buildings here, the Hauz Khas complex. It has pavilions, tomb, mosque and Islamic seminary. The history of this place is rooted in the medieval era, at around 13th century of the reign of Delhi Sultanate. It’s a strange city. Never once in the history, has it stopped the foreigners from walking over it. It has been ruled over by many dominants. I think it is still being ruled by modern dominants whose huge bungalows sit there at the Connaught Place and India Gate vicinity.
I go inside one of the buildings and look at the beautiful shadow of patterns created by morning sun as it rushes through this old, broken building. There is a lake down there. I go there. A bench sits at the shore of lake. I sit here with my thoughts, trying to collect them at one place. There is no comparison to the peace you derive when you sit next to a water body. A little sparrow is hopping in search of food. I look at it. This is the bird of my childhood. It disappeared in my teens and has again started appearing now. Someone said, the radiation from the mobile phone towers killed these sparrows. I am glad this bird is back. She reminds me of my innocent childhood.
I walk towards the Delhi Metro station. The first few rays of sun have painted the city canvas in the shades of rustic orange and yellow. The morning sounds are making way now- a few honks here and there, newspaper vendors peddling their way to the houses they are supposed to literally throw papers at, the birds flapping their wings ready for their flight, the wheels of Delhi Metro shrieking against the tracks and thunder of shop shutters opening. It’s a very normal Delhi morning, yet calm and peaceful.
I tell my heart it wasn’t a bad idea at all. Sometimes, all you need is serenity in the very basic things of life. It is almost rejuvenating. As I take a walk back to my home, I decide to treat myself to the old Delhi street food, later in the day. It is a good day. I promise to have more dates with myself.