Watching things move makes us feel that time is passing by. Watching things run, makes us feel that time is flying by. Watching ourselves run along with the crowd makes us feel that time is always ahead of us, and we’re continuously running into an abyss of “keeping up”. Yet, we always want to keep up. We always want to be secure of our knowledge of our environment. We always want to know what is right.
When I say “Lajpat Nagar”, the face of a Delhiite lights up with a broad smile of belongingness. Belongingness to a familiar concept of shopping on the streets for good looking clothes at cheap to reasonable prices. A concept of the aam janta. A concept far away from the mall culture. When a woman goes to Lajpat, she looks through streets lined with shops, checks variety at each one of them, bargains at every shop to reduce the Fixed Rates to just above her heart’s fulfilment (as no rate for a top can satisfy a woman), gives a fake walk-away to the selected shop and finally obtains one garment. She spends the whole afternoon or evening to purchase to her budget – which was probably what she saved through a month of tough planning. She goes back home and tries on the dresses spending hours on critically and affectionately admiring herself in front of the mirror. The joy in that purchase is way beyond what consumerism can ever give. The joy is beyond marketing and branding. That joy is the true extension of one’s emotional and aspirational self. A concept far away from the mall culture. A concept that makes every Delhiite smile when they read “Lajpat Nagar.”
It was a beautiful evening of February. The evening had the pleasant breeze of spring and the chill of a subduing Delhi winter. JJ, AB and I were in Lajpat Nagar looking for a stationery shop. When guys end up in Lajpat, they end up ‘looking for’ for hours, as they have no clue where to go in that maze of a densely crowded shopping area. Capitalizing on this, there are many street food shops which make their living. The numerous street vendors selling chaats, momos, sweet potato chaat and lime sodas act as a solace to numerous boyfriends, husbands and sons, who generally are at a loss for patience and logical understanding of their existence, or are simply lost. So we halted the search for our stationery and decided to make use of one such for-the-men instalment. JJ being a Delhiite was really fond of certain chaats which were unique to Delhi; and wanted AB and me to try this sweet potato chaat, also called Shakkarkandis. While this man started preparing the chaat, AB came up to me and said “Close your eyes and listen.” I closed my eyes.
And I listened. Click on this to hear the song (It is preferable if you run the song in the background as you read ahead).
A beautiful old song emanated from a close proximity. A song with a heavy Indian retro essence – simple, unclear and a bubbly woman singing. A mixed breeze of spring and winter blew at the very moment and cradled a smile on my face. I didn’t know the name of the song. Yet, I smiled. I didn’t know the source of the music. Yet, I smiled. I didn’t understand how the breeze complemented the song so well. Yet, I smiled. I didn’t want to know. I surrendered to the moment and I smiled. On one side of my closed eyes was a world which was full of complexities, hidden motives and increasing entropy. And on the other side was a world which only had an old song – a song that told me that there existed a simpler time; a time with fewer elements and all elements could be enjoyed to the fullest; a time which could make you happy.
I opened my eyes.
Watching things move makes us feel that time is passing by. But for that one moment in my life, I chose not to keep up to maintain my secure space. I chose to let time pass by while I stood still. I chose not to judge myself. And time stopped. A chaatwala’s transistor playing an old song stopped time and made me more genuinely happy than anything ever could.
I opened my eyes to three plates of shakkarkandhis and a beautiful confluence of two worlds.
PS: I would love to thank AB, for his understanding, as he heard the song first and probably felt all of what I felt with greater intensity; and his faith in me, that I’d probably capture the emotion as well.
And I also ran to the transistor and recorded the remaining bit of the song .
Beautiful photographs of Lajpat Nagar:
How to Make Shakkarkandis (for JJ):