delhi diaries: (part two) Paharganj

(I wrote this a long time ago, but do forgive me. I did find this publishable)

My heart is becoming a necropolis” – Flaubert

Of all things in Delhi that become fainter and fainter is the memory of faces. I had two friends who spent their hours in the little alleys of the city trying to find their doppelgangers. They found them – one was in an advertisement for some bogus establishment trying to sell education to those who did not make it to the University of Delhi while the other one found it in the university canteen. I never asked them why they wanted to find their doubles. In retrospect, it seems apt. One of the friends would end up doing acid after college, his attempts to get into Arts and Aesthetics course for Post-graduation in Jawaharlal Nehru University was a futile one. Sometimes I forget what he looks like. Knowing that he has a doppelganger somewhere in the city’s billboards is almost a consolation. I keep looking for mine. I spot familiar people but cannot see my own. A gardener looks like my friend’s patriarchal father who believes that girls should not go out with men, especially Muslim men.

In Paharganj, the faces looking for faces are interesting. Here the scum of the planet is the looking for peace and god knows what. Gigolos, guides, tourist ‘helps’, shopkeepers all roll into one and the city of the dead, Delhi, Dilli, breathes in the glut of its identities. The bookshop owner I was conversing with flirted with the girl who was working in the shop. Perusing through the books – Jack Kerouac for 200 rupees was cheap – someone was making orgasmic sounds in the next room – the supposed beauty parlor. We continued what we were doing without indicating how the rhythm of the moans was audible through the walls – me looking at the books and the man leering at the girl. Layers on layers. They are as ostensible as the emperor’s clothes. But we don’t recognize them. We are too busy looking for other faces. Doppelgangers, mirrors and then some humanity.


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