This afternoon in the office, I was sorely tempted to pull up my shawl to cover my head too – the air-conditioning was making the office so cold that my fingers were getting numb, my knit legging-ed leg was getting goosebump-y, and I was sure I’d get a headache at this rate.

And then I wondered how I would brave the Delhi winters.

Ladies and gentlemen, here I am, announcing the latest big move of my life. So far, the record is Chennai à Singapore à Mumbai à Delhi. I’ve steadily been moving north, except for the Singapore bit where I moved a few degrees north of the equator.

While Mumbai did a good job in getting me used to a city that wasn’t Chennai or Bangalore or another southern city where I had family – I could manage my way around in Hindi, get used to tomato-onion-garam masala-based gravies every single day Delhi is a whole other world.

First of all, it carries the loaded baggage of being unsafe for women. After Singapore and Mumbai, here I was, resigned to not wearing shorts or being out and about alone at night. My mother’s concern reaches epic proportions as she signs resignedly when I tell her I’m out for dinner or to buy things. I try every time – unsuccessfully – to allay her fears and say it’s not that bad; but after Mumbai, I will admit that the number of women I find on the roads – alone – after 7pm is shockingly low.

But otherwise, things have been a lot more fun. The biggest change would be the Hindi. Yes, Mumbai made me feel more confident about my hesitant Hindi, and I shamelessly describe or bargain without any thought to whether I should use ka or ki, mera or meri. Mumbai generously allowed me those mistakes. Here, I don’t know… but I confidently rattle off anyway in my working Hindi until my lengthy monologue tapers into English and I finish with an embarrassingly well-constructed English sentence spoken to a house agent, tiffin delivery guy or carpenter who would likely just nod his head or answer back with a complex Hindi sentence.

Hindi here is literary, pure. After Mumbai’s Marathi-mixed Hindi and ‘Tum kya karta hai’ type lines, Hindi in Delhi is like listening to people read sentences from a book. Road signs use words like ‘pralabdh’ (or something like that, I forgot what intense word I saw!), and people use words that I’ve never really heard before, even though my Hindi is as textbook-ish as can be, given we learnt it for years in school without ever having to really speak the language. I hear the word ‘dikkat’ a dozen times everyday, and I wonder why they just can’t use ‘takleef’ (or does my limited vocabulary not understand the nuances and simply consider both synonyms for difficulty?). I also hear the word ‘nazdeek’ and wonder why you can’t use the simpler monosyllabic ‘paas’ (both, I’m pretty sure, mean ‘close’).  And took a minute to understand ‘khulle paise’ for ‘chhutta’ (change or coins).

I’m doing much better, though. I unconsciously switch to Hindi (albeit on very rare occasions) with my colleagues, and I consider that a big achievement because all my life I have never spoken in Hindi in a situation where I didn’t have to. I guess all the Hindi that I hear being spoken around me in office –something that amused me to no end on my first day – helps.

As life settles into a fairly comfortable routine, one of the things I enjoy the most is taking the train back home. I live three stations away, and two doors from the station I exit at. I’m silly enough to want to grin widely (but thankfully check myself) every time I walk past the cacophonous ‘Madam-madam-madam’ chant of the rickshaw-wallahs outside the station, asking me to hop on to their vehicle. I walk past the row of them and get into my house, the house till which their line extends. Ah, the pleasures of staying close to the station!

That said, what’s with having manually-drawn rickshaws in this day and age, and that too in the national capital?! It irks me whenever I have to sit in a vehicle and watch a man – often thin and wiry, and sometimes even old – pedal painfully through crowded roads. I feel worse when I have a co-passenger. The first time I sat on one – I couldn’t remember when I’d sat on a rickshaw before that day – it was like going on a roller-coaster ride through crowded, brimming-with-life-and-commerce Delhi-6. I kept sliding off the sloping seat, and had a laugh whizzing through the roads. Now, I wish I could avoid every rickshaw ride. Like my friend says, these men are selling their labour to earn money – but it’s bitter to watch. Like I used to be amazed and feel sad looking at frail, old people cleaning tables in Singapore foodcourts – they are only earning their money, but you wish they didn’t have to do this.

Otherwise, the roads are laaaarge and wiiiiide, and it’s such a pleasant surprise after Bombay’s choking, narrow roads. You don’t see slums, and the metro is just so beautiful and I’m so proud to see something like this in the country – and it’s kept clean, and how! Government buildings, state representative houses, a hint of the Red Fort from a crowded road in Delhi-6, the Lotus Temple that I see near the Nehru Place station, the Dilli Haat with its stalls from across the country… the city (or what I’ve seen of it) is like an everyday display of what the country stands for in its full glory, and it’s always thrilling to see things you’ve read about in History standing before you tall and proud (even though I’ve done enough trips to Delhi as a kid). And houses – man, where are the apartments?! Every place I wanted to rent was a barsati ­ - a glorified servant’s quarters or outhouse, built where the terrace should have been, stuffed with basic plumbing and a few perfunctory shelves. After seeing a dozen of them, I zoned in on one that’s as big as one of the bedrooms at my home in Coimbatore – and I pay more than what we would rent our whole home out for.  

As I settle into my new home, manage packed lunches and dinners, eat fruits like I never have before, feel hungry all the time like I never eat (!), hunt desperately for a maid (so much that I walked up to a random security guard and asked him to tell any maid he sees entering the society), feel like I'll melt in this furnace of a weather, feel delirious at times wondering whether I’m in Mumbai or a whole other city, and would give anything to get steaming, hot upma for breakfast, I’m slowly getting used to Delhi… and kinda enjoying it too.