It’s been a month since I arrived in Delhi, and I’m finally starting the process of appreciating the city for what it is. The sense of belonging here hasn’t come easy. Everyone seems caught up in the hustle and bustle, day and in and day out. Staying busy is something I usually enjoy, though there’s something to be said about being preoccupied without the enrichment of others’ company. Without knowing many people to have engaging conversations with, I was starting to find that seeking inspiration in everyday life had become a deliberate, rather than natural, process. So last week, while I was questioning if anything in Delhi would light me up, I decided to start exploring – both the city and the kind of work I want to be engaged in while I’m here. I feel like I’m starting to stumble into a world full of possibilities.
A few days ago, I took a serendipitous trip to Hauz Khas Village, an artistically and historically rich neighborhood, and stepped into the Creative Art Gallery. The energy of the exhibits took me aback. One of them featured a series of photographs portraying Tibetan monks in the modern-day life of Dharamsala. The images immediately resonated with me; they showed the perfect contrast of tradition and modernity, of inner peace and external chaos, which are so prevalent in Delhi. I constantly find myself battling to find appreciation and serenity here, yet they’re so easy to come by when I remind myself of the centuries of traditions and cultures that have passed by the area. A short walk from the Creative Art Gallery was validation of this reminder.
There, nestled amid bustling boutiques and gentrified apartments, lay the ruins of the Firuz Shahi madrasa, one of the finest Islamic seminaries in the world when it was first built in the 1300s. Today, it serves the resourceful purpose of bringing communities together. As I walked in, I couldn’t help but smile. In a place once full of intellect, spirituality, and tradition, kids were laughing as they played cricket and football in the grass. Within the walls that still remain of the madrasa, couples and friends had found little nooks to have intimate conversations. I looked around and marveled at the uniqueness of the city, how it allows history to bring together moments of peace and joy in an otherwise chaotic world of modernity.
Since the trip to Hauz Khas Village, my appreciation of Delhi has been much easier to come by. The incessant honking on the streets and the never-to-be-averted stares from men still irritate me (especially the staring), but I’m learning to breathe when these moments come by. I’m starting to let the focus of my time here be the exploration of all that Delhi has to offer, from the serenity and humility that comes from being at the Lotus temple, to the admiration and love for life that comes from conversations with people who dedicate themselves to working for others. Hopefully the picture on my photo blog will encapsulate the former, but you’ll have to wait for the next blog entry to learn more about the latter. By then, I hope to be a step closer to giving more details about what my “baby” will be as well, something I’m still lost on. Until then, I’ll continue discovering Delhi, and hope I can call it home.