Friday, June 1, 2012

Delhi In June: Hit By Dust Storms!

June is a rather difficult month if you are in Delhi. Given a choice, most of the capital's populace will be happy to move out of their city in June, to go to a place where the weather is more agreeable. It is still as hot as it was in May, but the level of discomfort is higher. The afternoons are fiercely hot. And if it happens to be a breezeless day, then there is no respite anywhere in sight. Mornings turn into afternoons, afternoons into evenings and evenings into nights; but all these seem to be a continuation of a timeless state where different times of the day merge into each other to make a gray interval that refuses to end. The stillness of this monotony is interrupted when strong winds arrive on the scene in the form of a dust storm. These whirlwinds worsen the misery of summer by making everything hazy, dusty and dull.

Sometimes, there is an occasional shower that not only settles the dust and cools down the city a little bit, but brings out a refreshingly pleasant fragrance from the soil. It is very mild and subtle, but is one of its kind. Its uniqueness is related to the fact that it emanates only during the first rain of the season, when the dry earth meets with the much awaited raindrops after a hot spell.

Other than the heavenly scent of the earth after the first rain, there is nothing that is spectacularly different in June from what it was like in May. Of course, the humidity levels go up. As a result, the desert coolers that were very useful in the last couple of months are not so effective any more. The schools are still closed. But all other activities go on as usual, irrespective of the unfriendly temperatures.The wheels that move the big metropolis keep turning from dawn to dusk and more. From the carefully planned, symmetrical Lutyen's Delhi to the haphazard sprawl of numerous neighbourhoods that comprise the National Capital Region, the spirit of Delhi is alive and well. Thankfully, that does not change with the season.

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This brings us to the end of this series. The Delhi that I wrote about is the Delhi I experienced from 1984 to 2006. I moved out of Delhi after that. My posts were not so much about facts and figures as they were about the "feel" of the city. The Delhi I saw and felt could be entirely different from someone else's Delhi. And one of the greatest things to happen to Delhi in the last decade is completely missing from my account. It is the Delhi Metro. Even though its planning and construction began many years ago, it became operational in a small way towards the end of my time there. That is why it is not a part of my Delhi experience. I have of course taken rides on it during my trips to Delhi later, and have enjoyed its speed and efficiency. The Metro is a huge improvement over the buses--the only major public transport--that existed before it came into existence. And coming to think of it, I have not mentioned them either. Stories of the DTC buses--and I have many of them--are not specific to any particular month or season, and therefore merit a separate post which may appear some time in the days to come.

Also absent in this series are the number of gleaming malls that have come up in the last few years. They are part of a Delhi that I am not much familiar with. The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, several flyovers, the refurbished venues and other infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games, the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida and a few other landmarks have come up recently that I have no personal association with. But, as with everything else, change is the only constant in Delhi too. I will be looking forward to visiting this Newer Delhi every time I get a chance to do so. It will be a pleasure to find glimpses of the Delhi I know well tucked away in the Delhi that I do not know so well.

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