For someone who could get lost inside even a tiny, cramped office typical of Mumbai and need directions to the exit, it was foolhardy to venture alone towards the Metro Station after a memorable meet-up with friends.
But adventure beckoned and the road thronged with Sunday revelers added to the thrill of walking alone on a beautiful Delhi road. Till I realized that I was lost. A wrong turn, perhaps? Not a problem, I thought, taking out my phone to call the friend whom I was staying with, to ask for directions.
My Blackberry was dead. Completely discharged. It had been acting like a diva ever since I landed in Delhi. Dropped calls. Texts that could not be replied to because Madam BB decided to get ‘hanged’ at that particular moment and rendering futile all efforts at re-booting. I shook the phone, willing it to start. Nada. Suddenly, the revelers began to look loutish and the road looked like the path to hell.
Where the hell was the Metro Station? It did not seem such a great idea to ask the people around for directions. In front of me loomed a large maidan which I was sure I had never seen before in my three or four trips to this side of Connaught Place.
I did not remember my friend’s phone number. I was supposed to call her from Saket station and she’d come pick me up. I did not know the way to her house.
I was stranded.
I wanted to cry.
It would be smarter to think of options rather than cry, I decided. Nothing came to mind, though. The landscape seemed like a vast blanket that seemed to come closer and closer as if to smother me. I took a deep breath. I am not sure I prayed but at that moment, I spied a portly Sikh gentleman, who, dressed in shorts and t-shirt, seemed to be out on his evening walk (which now I recollect, is quite strange because CP didn’t seem to be a residential area). With his salt-and-pepper bearded face and the saropa* tied around his head, he appeared to be a god-send.
Even then, not wanting to take a risk, I approached the gentleman casually, and summoning forth my most authentic Punjabi dialect, asked him directions to the Rajiv Chowk Metro station. He pointed to my left. I turned my head and hardly a few metres away, was the entrance to the station.
All the while I had been searching for the station on my right. Panic had made me blind to what was in front of me.
The station was crowded. I stood in the queue for the Yellow Line. At Saket, I’d search for a plug point, perhaps at one of the stores near the station, so I could charge my phone and retrieve my friend’s number.
As the train halted, I entered the compartment and right across, on the other side I saw PLUG POINTS. Two of them. I love you, Delhi Metro. I love you, Delhi.
Yes, I called my friend from the train and she was at the station by the time I reached.
Yes, this is a love story. The story of falling in love with a city.
(When I published an excerpt I’d written at a travel workshop, every reader wanted to know what happened next. They insisted I tell them how the story ended. For a long time, I desisted. But when Author Kiran Manral announced the All Aboard Contest, I decided it was time to come clean about my romance, about how I romanced the city, with all the thrills and the chills of a true love story – which perhaps might not be recognizable as one.
So here it is, above, in its entirety).
*Saropa: A gift of honour presented by the Sikh community. Usually a length of cloth, usually saffron in colour, for tying a turban or draped over the shoulders.