After passing out of college some of my good hostel friends went to Delhi to start their career. The market was badly hit by recession those days. Well, I didn’t know much about recession and all; the only thing I knew was that none of the companies were hiring freshers. After staying at home for a couple of months I was absolutely bored. I felt a sense of anxiety at the reality of my situation. I didn’t have any clue what to do in life and simply decided to go to Delhi to my friends. It was the month of March, so we didn’t encounter the lethal winter. Even though none of us had a job, but life in Delhi was cool. I smelled freedom yet again, as if I was out of my cage and could fly like a free bird.
The weather in Delhi was pleasant initially, particularly in the evening; the moderately chilly breeze felt sumptuous. We stayed at a place named ‘East of Kailash’. The place was considered to be a posh area, but we lived in a ‘Dhobi’ washerman’s colony. For the first time I witnessed a modern ‘dhobi ghat’ where they washed cloths in some giant washing machines. One day, my good friend Javed came to meet us. He was staying in Delhi for the last few months and was familiar with the surroundings. He lived in Lajpat Nagar and it was not very far from our place. In the evening he took us for a walk to show his locality. We visited Lajpat Nagar market. There was a person who was selling soup in his thela. There was a huge queue and I wondered if the man was distributing soup for free. Javed said that his soup was very famous and his business was at boom in the winter. My friends wanted to taste it, but I was not very interested. Well, I was more into solid food and some hard core liquids. I considered soup kind of stuff as luxury and a waste of money. But I was quite fascinated with the price of the soup, there. There were a few varieties and the usual chicken soup was priced at Rs 10. I thought it was worth a try.
'For Rs 10, even if I get the smell of chicken that would be more than enough,' I wondered.
Without much expectation I also lined up in the queue. When I got my bowl of soup, Oh dear! I was mesmerized with the aroma. It was so refreshing and also there was adequate amount of solid chicken in my bowl. It was delicious and that was one of the best soup I ever had.
A few days later, one chilly evening, I had a craving for that soup. I asked my friends, but nobody was interested to go that far. So I went alone, had my soup and returned. On my way back home, I was lost. I knew I was somewhere near ‘East of Kailash’, but I was utterly confused.
I asked one middle aged and a decent looking man, 'Uncle Ji, ye, East of Kailash kidhaar hai?'(Could you please tell me where is East of Kailash?)
'Aree Behenchod, East of Kailash pe khade hoke poochta hai ki East of Kailash kidhaar hai'
The man replied sharply and in a rather weird manner, with the F-word. He tried to convey me that I was already in East of Kailash. I was totally stunned with his behavior; not that I wasn’t used to such holy words, in fact I preached those with my friends. But I never expected that from an elderly stranger and I was a little disappointed. The man then asked me where exactly I had to go in East of Kailash and guided me properly. Within a few days I understood that entire Delhi was just like a hostel where people love to greet others with one F-word or another, just to add a little more intimacy, a little more love and a little more gravity to their greetings.
Time passed by and soon we started to feel the Delhi heat. I noticed the Delhi men got busy with their coolers in their balconies. Summer had arrived. We were aware of Delhi summer, but experiencing it for the first time was a different matter altogether. Initially it was hot, then it became unpleasantly hot and then the heat turned brutal and unbearable. Delhi summer had really frightened me. Neither I nor any of my friends had a job that time. Forget about Air Conditioner, we didn’t even have one of those local made coolers. After lunch we usually passed time in a nearby cyber cafe. Using internet was secondary for us and our primary intention was to enjoy the AC there. The cafe guy had already increased the price by Rs 5 per hour. So instead of two, three of us started to occupy the same computer. During the day I gulped enough quantity of the street lemonade. I was quite fascinated with the special looking bottles sealed with a marble stuck inside them. Those were served chilled with fresh lime juice and the special Masala. The street lemonades were like saviors and they cooled us off for a while.
Our life was a little normal after dark. That was the time when I experienced how it feels to treat 10 pm as evening rather than night. But I remember that some nights were equally brutal as the days. Those nights I used to have shower multiple times, after every hour. Immediately after shower I used to stand under the fan. It felt really good, kind of cooler effect. But the water droplets on my body would disappear within a minute and soon the heat started to strike all over again. Our room had turned into a heater and the walls were radiating heat all around. I felt I was in hell. On a few occasions I had thrown a bucket of water at my cotton mattress. It worked for a few minutes and then I felt as if I was sleeping in a big pot of boiling water. Well, I had many sleepless nights that summer. I remember there was a sugarcane juice stall near to our colony. The guy used to come early in the morning to start his business and a few times, I was his first customer for the day. Unable to get any sleep for the entire night I went to that juice stall. I found the guy was not ready yet, he was still busy settling his stuff. Once he was ready, I gulped four to five glasses of icy chilled sugarcane juice and returned to my room. The juice inside my body somehow managed to resist the heat outside and finally I was able to get some sleep.
These days, a serious power crisis is going on in Delhi. I can’t imagine how the people are surviving without power, there. On top of that, the summer is ruthless this time; I’ve heard that sometimes the mercury rises beyond 48 degree Celsius.