Dilli or Dili?

Posted by Gülcan Durak • Tuesday, March 9. 2010 • Category: People and Places
Perhaps "dili" (= from the heart, cordial, close, intimate) is a good expression to describe Delhi but there are probably a hundred things I love more. For example a delicious chocolate fudge brownie, which tastes so good that you even wish you could reincarnate as one. What else…

Ok, wait, maybe there aren’t a hundred things. Actually, I don’t think I can name anything else, because there is simply nothing more. But let me start with some hard facts about this incredible city. Delhi, locally known as Dilli, is a city with approximately 15 million inhabitants and is India’s most populous city after Mumbai. It consists of Delhi, Delhi Cantonment, and New Delhi, the last one being the capital of India. About 82 % of the population in Dilli are Hindus. The second largest religious community are Muslims with 12 %, Sikhs are 4 %, and Jains and Christians are around 1 % each. The main languages spoken here are Hindi and English (the official languages of India), as well as Punjabi and Urdu.

© Knowledge Must 2010

On an interesting note, the average number of days with fog in the winter months in Delhi is 18.6 days per month. But what is hidden behind the fog and smog of this mysterious city? First of all, Dilli has a fascinating past. Dilli's Muslim rulers, like Qutubuddin Aibak, Humayun, and Shah Jahan, to name a few, influenced the city in terms of culture and architecture. Today, lots of historical monuments are located in Dilli, for example, the Qutub Minar (with 72.5m world’s tallest brick minaret), Humayun’s Tomb, and the Jama Masjid (India’s largest mosque), as well as recent monuments like the Akshardham Temple (among the world’s largest Hindu temples). Especially in places of worship like the Bahai Temple (which looks like a gigantic lotus flower) in South Dilli, one can easily escape from the daily hustle and bustle and just enjoy the peaceful atmosphere there.

© Knowledge Must 2010
Another reason why Dilli is the place to be is the green cover. The list of parks in Dilli is endless and surely makes other cities like Mumbai turn green with envy. There is simply no better way to spend a sunny day than sitting in the Lodi Gardens to explore the area and have a picnic in the midst of the stunning historical monuments. The next reason is the delicious street food you get in almost every alley you set foot in. A huge variety, from Samosas (a famous snack with spicy boiled potato stuffing inside a crispy flour dough served with spicy chutney) over Pav Bhaji (dry buns topped with a cube of butter, combined with a mish-mash of hot cooked vegetables) to the typical Dilli Kulfi (milk ice-cream, flavoured with saffron, cardamom, and nuts), is offered in the streets. This unlimited access to dillicious food everywhere and nearly at every time of the day is truly priceless!

I could list many more reasons but I will stop right here and mention one last thing (all male readers are now requested to skip this part for their own good). Dilli is a paradise for everyone who loves to go shopping. Sarojini Nagar, Connaught Place, Lajpat Nagar, Dilli Haat, Pahar Ganj are just a few places to go if you want to buy things you absolutely, urgently, and really necessarily need, like new clothes, bags, shoes and jewellery. Regardless of whether you go to a traditional bazaar or a modern shopping complex, whether you have a small or a large budget, the variety of opportunities never fails to impress.

In general, life here is very unpredictable, chaotic, and loud. You never know what will happen next. Imagine you are on the way to work, sitting in a rikshaw, and right on top of a flyover elephants and camels pass by. I love the chaos, the constant noise and even the honking. Not always, but 99.9 % of the time. When you walk down the streets of the numerous bazaars and then suddenly hear the sound of just the perfect song for that situation, something along the lines of: “Yeh Dilli hai mere yaar, bas ishq, mohabbat, pyaar” [यह दिल्ली है मेरे यार, बस इश्क, मुहब्बत, प्यार / "This is Dilli my friend, only love, love, love…" Word origins: Ishq / mohabbat (Urdu), pyaar (Hindi)] coming from one of the small shops - these are the moments I am talking about! I always have such moments, when I just as much as think about this city.

Maybe the things that make Dilli so special and lovable for me can also be found in other cities. But the unique experiences I had, they didn’t happened in Mumbai, Kolkata, or Chennai. They happened right here. More than anything else, it is the people you meet, the experiences you make, and the changes you undergo which make everything so special and memorable. Dilli is therefore not only just a nice setting, but it is a very ‘dili’ one.

* [Dilli / दिल्ली = local name for Delhi; dili / दिली = from the heart, cordial, close, intimate]
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