That’s right, Delhi—I’m here again. Didja miss me?
Well, he was mooning about Delli, that highly pestilential place, possibly in search of some undiscovered facts —Joseph Conrad [h/t Charne]
My visa arrived on Wednesday. By Sunday I was in the air. The babies cried in relays, the food was terrible, and I was fiendishly sleep-deprived after a characteristic London nightbus snafu. Throw in a red colour scheme and I feared things could get a bit Alec Baldwin (or, god forbid, Gérard Depardieu). Fortunately Virgin Atlantic has mastered the art of distraction, and I am a sucker. Proudly clutching a swish bilingual menu, unusably dwarfish toothbrush, and foxy airhostess, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
Indira Gandhi International Airport was just as I’d left it—like someone else’s low-res dream of a 1980s soft furnishings store. Anticlimactically the first shop to greet you is WH Smith. At least the irritating tourist quotient is only 1% of Heathrow’s vast semi-permanent population of milling zombies. It did feel alarmingly like coming home. ‘O frabjous day!’ I cried joyously at an alarmed taxi driver (always hit the decrepit pre-pay stall on the left before the exit, kids). My Hindi was as rusty as my feel for comical similes. ‘In Delhi I was living, and now I back come is!’
The traditional moist overshare
Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things. —George Carlin
It’s a lucky 13℃ cooler than when I left. Chronicling my involuntary bodily secretions was the highlight of older posts, though, and I can happily report that I’ve discovered a whole new species of sweat. Back in the heady ’40ºs, you’ll recall I spent most of the time lying semi-naked in a gently steaming heap of misanthropy. Delhi was brown and disgruntled.
This time it’s the clammy tail-end of the monsoon, and the city feels entirely different. Everywhere there are erotically dark sticky pools and thronging people and eruptions of green. Without warning the bloodshot sky has psychotic breaks and frantically pisses on everything. It feels almost obscenely fertile—you could, as Ondaatje writes, ‘spit on the ground and a bush would leap up’. The Victorians must have had panic attacks.
Weirdly, I feel fantastically cheerful in the humidity—I keep finding myself emailing people saying, ‘I feel like an Amazon or a horse! I taste salty! My arms are glowing like Serena Williams!!!’ Unsettling. Most likely I’ve got dengue fever.
I’ve even renovated that all-important pillar of Dilliwallahood: a phone. The SIM card form makes all sorts of irrational demands for proof of address and other bureaucratic extravagances. Unless, of course, you make it clear you’re topping up a princely foreigner sum. As a bonus, I have all these extra passport photos—which the thoughtful young man even took it upon himself to Photoshop for me, just like the Border Agency enjoys.
By Jove, it’s good to be back.
Burn before reading
You played hard to get at first, but I won’t deny I found myself weirdly attracted to you. —Past Me
Incidentally, the observant amongst you might have been wondering why the previous post falsely claimed to be the summer’s ‘penultimate entry’. Fear not, ElectricMasalettes: this was no blunder in the blog’s characteristically pungent English. There did exist an Ultimate Entry, the glorious Platonic überpost of which Nuremberg was a mere shadow.
The U.E. was a break-up note to Delhi, scribbled and erased and rescribbled over a dozen heat-crazed moments at the End of Days, on yellow Post-Its that disintegrated with sweat and smeared ink up my twitching forearms and forehead. There were phrases like ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ and ‘We both need therapy’. It had kisses on the end. I may even have called Delhi a cougar. (In an early draft, it may have been ‘big boy’. Oh god.) With the 5am airport taxi honking below, sleepless and full of wild blurry joy and the last drams of Feckless Brother’s whisky, I was finally about to whack it up online.
About four minutes before I clicked Publish—hey, my mind wasn’t exactly working like Speedy Gonzales by this point—I thought: It is extremely odd behaviour to write a break-up note to a city.
I scratched myself and fell over an overweight suitcase.
Then—brain crinkling with the effort—I thought: Perhaps your. Mind. Has finally.
. . . Bro k e n.
I sweated a bit more, fell indecisively over the suitcase again, and into the taxi. Some things ought to remain between me and D-Town.