"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City


ten. Delhi.
from the overnight sleeper to Delhi, I will recall: the sigh of a hundred people sleeping as we move through the dark, and the occasional scent of wood fire as we pass by settlements where the unseen air seeps in through the holes in the compartment. the compartment is full of inadvertent openings: holes for toilets, a hole for garbage, holes for sinks from which water drains, holes where compartments latch onto each other, holes through window grates. the proximity of the tracks over which we fly is palpable. when the trains stop, the platform becomes a carnival of food vendors frantically fulfilling the onslaught of hungry passenger hands: vada, omelletes, salads held in leaves, chapatti, chai, curd...the rhythm of platform vending must be bizarre, an economic livelihood contained within a swollen pause of an otherwise ceaseless system.

Delhi in two short days: gray, cool, unseasonably wet, rain blanketing the city in a muddy sludge comprised of dirt, betelnut spit, urine, garbage-mush (paper, tangled plastic bags), cow dung. through observing feet new boundaries are drawn, as the pedal difference between tourist and Delhi’ite disappears in the face of rain. strategies include: the impermeable boot, the ginger-footed ‘nice’ shoe (usually with pant legs rolled or tucked into sock), the hell-with-it muddy sandle (my choice), and the occasional truly-hell-with-it barefoot. raingear means: plastic bag on head, umbrella, jacket, woolen shawl, nothing at all. the transport provides only half-relief; on buses water seeps in through the holes where window latches once were, rivulets running up and down the sills as the bus lurched and stopped, lurched and stopped, while a man wrapped in a wet shawl shouted madly out the window the bus’ destination. windows fogged, seats wet, sky gray with dusk, but still the laughter of relief when people got on board. here, as in Ahmedabad, my presence turns the busride into a communal conversation: “where is she trying to go? where is she from? her stop is coming up…” I find that there are aspects of these cities I can only discern by making myself vulnerable through public transit. in Delhi the autorickshaw drivers go neck and neck with the buses and cabs, the confident movements of their straining legs the only thing keeping my corporeal self from intersecting with a metal machine... the winter rain is disastrous for these men, who must pause their work while huddled beneath overhangs.

Delhi felt like a man’s city, perhaps in part because I was there over the weekend, but when buying a train ticket I was one woman in a sea of 150, and on the buses only 1 of 2 or 3 females. there are a fair number of public urinals lining the sidewalk, a simple wall with partitions, open to the street, and the effort to clean the city (“say no to plastic [sic] bags”) evident in signs and trashcans. the new Metro system physically encapsulates what the rest of the city begs through its signboards. in the Metro Foucault lives; metal detectors and guards, fines for littering, electronic turnstiles, escalators, guardrails – mechanisms of bodily discipline which seem like the ‘norm’ in any large urban transit system but which in Delhi are still relatively new and thus, flagrant (although metal detectors can be found everywhere in the city, many of them are ignored or unused). I witnessed a family’s first escalator ride, which had them staring, hesitant, causing a jam at the entry until they literally jumped, unsteadily, onto an emerging step and began to laugh…the Metro stations also rearrange adjacent streetscapes as the new paving, sometimes with orderly park or greenery, spills into old space, the boundaries of which must be renegotiated. in general street use in New Delhi is more spatially articulated than in Mumbai, through the use of minute elevational change. differentiation is sometimes only 2 or 3 inches, between parking lot and shopping arcade, sometimes a hefty 8 or 12, to demarcate traffic medians and sidewalks. still, the informal is allowed expression: numerous fences in the rain become walls for plastic tarp-tents inside which fires burn and chai is made.

compared to Mumbai, Delhi also looks more visually ‘global,’ and in certain areas, enacts itself for the tourism industry even more. McD’s are multiple (one oddly sited across from the undulating mounds of a dump cum minor slum settlement), as are emporiums for the source - conscious consumer. the tourist ghetto is particularly symbiotic with the ‘local,’ internet cafe’s on every corner interspersed with cheap clothing stores boasting ‘fixed prices’ and hippiewear for the rajashthan or varanasi returnee. the entire street of Main Bazaar is really one outdoor mall for travelers, and it makes you realize that it all probably began with one recommended hotel in one book. the Main Bazaar’s relationship to the not-Delhi is most strikingly evident in its relationship to the city-at-large: the main entrance of the New Delhi train station virtually spills right into the mouth of Main Bazaar. most are just passing through here, for a night’s sleep, a bite to eat, and a skype session.

Delhi snapshots…
… at the Lotus Temple, a hundred schoolgirls barefoot on white stone, filing wordlessly in and out by the hand gestures of their teacher. their small feet made gentle squeaking sounds against the stone. dressed in plaid skirts, most had thick long black braids in red ribbons, but one or two girls sported rebellious pixie cuts. at every hour there is a prayer that fills the arced dome of the petal roof with song
… at the Jama Masjid, the minaret stairs wind 1.5 ft. wide and 80 feet high to reveal a view of an endless sea of multi-colored Old Delhi houses. in the distance, the towers of Connaught Place look like a flat painting, stripped of the sounds of its tidy & modern bustle
… in Old Delhi’s street-maze, I found a *glitter* manufacturer in a quiet courtyard of a lovely old building tucked in an alley. I’m now toting around 7 packets of rainbow blin, given as presents for being nosy

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