This is a day of firsts. Today Discovering Mumbai presents it's first guest post. Also this is the first time that we are stepping outside the borders of Mumbai to bring to you a story from another equally enchanting metropolis - Delhi. Today's guest post writer is Amanda Rivera.
Amanda Rivera is a young professional working and making her way through the beautiful chaos of Delhi. After spending time throughout the USA, Europe, and a brief stint in Southeast Asia, she is excited to make India her home.
'Bitter Reality' is a gripping post about her not so great experiences in Delhi. Her blog is special as it gives you an insight on how a single American woman is adjusting to life in Delhi. You can read your blog here.
Heading back from dinner in an auto by myself, I smiled out at the scene around me. I had just finished getting copies at Nehru Place and reading an entire book while eating. It felt productive. I felt secure and confident and safe.
My auto driver pulled over and said he didn’t know where we were going. I told him again that he had said he knew the first time so let’s get going please. Something felt off. I almost jumped out and got another auto but it was getting later in the evening and no one was around at the current spot. We finally got moving again and when we arrived at my destination I asked the driver how much. He responded with, in Hindi, “your heart.” I made some noise at him and tried to get out to pay.
Suddenly he had grabbed my arm and was pushing me backwards, kissing my arm and hand. I hit him, threw some rupees at his face, and ran into the gate.
Okay. I’m okay. Just some crazy drunk driver. Random.
But I was disoriented and suddenly something was starting to peel back, the stench was finally reaching my brain’s neurons. What had been all around me in each unsafe moment began to register its existence. I’m a young woman. I’ll never be able to truly be alone in this city, I’ll never have the freedom to be as independent as I like. The consequences of doing as I please are too dangerous, too real now.
Recently, my friends and I were going to see an office building a mutual buddy had just finished building because he wanted to show it off. The location was farther out, west of Delhi. The familiar streets crumbled away until the piles of people slumped together on the ground outnumbered the vehicles on the dirt road. I realized also where they had pushed all the cows to– they stared at us in herds, unafraid to monitor and enforce their rules.
More and more space breathed out between the buildings. They were falling over on one side and most were abandoned to dust. Grass grew in tall weeds around slabs of cement sticking out of the ground in a hodge podge assortment. Suddenly our friend said, “We’re here!”
He proudly demonstrated what was the newest building in the area, the TVs inside, the nice marble floor. I wanted to laugh at the contrast. He’s a land developer and was going on and on– arms waving around wildly– about how expensive the land surrounding us was, what he was going to do with it, how he’d be even more rich with time. My mind suddenly pictured the mound of human bodies nearby. Where had they been before? What farmers among them had been forced by good money to sell their land? Had ended up with nothing to occupy their time and no way to sustain themselves after the money ran out?
I walked outside. The moon glowed down onto the field behind the office building. I walked through moist clay mud and stood against the gate, my face pressed against cool metal. A light peeked out of a small, slanted brick edifice out in the middle of the grass. Everything inside me wanted to jump the bars holding me back and run out into the field, dance free, and finally end up sitting at table with the person sitting in the brick room. I wanted to ask them what they thought about the new office building meters away from their window. Wanted to hear that they were ok, that they were happy here, that they knew India was going to be alright.
I imagined an old woman putting her hand on mine, smiling. We would look at each other and both know that the world around us was crumbling like so many of the homes had in this part of Delhi. But that there would always be an open field with moonlight, always a light shining somewhere through an open window, always an open heart willing to see and to change.
Loud yelling brought me back to the reality that I was still locked in. Turning, I made my way gingerly back through the quicksand and into the office. The developer had found his servant passed out on a bed in the back, apparently having had an entire bottle of whiskey. The guy was mad that he had trusted the servant with this new space, the technology, paid the AC bills, and all he was doing was passing out drunk.
I took this moment to use the washroom, but when I came back I saw he’d thrown the servant outside, and the man was curled into a ball on the concrete.
“No,” I told him firmly, “I’m really sorry he did this and broke your trust, but he’s not well, you can’t leave him there.” After the guy refused to bring him in, I went to the servant myself and started lifting him. Another of my friends helped, mostly embarrassed to let a girl lift a man in such a way. We put him back on the bed when he started throwing up. The orangey brown liquid wouldn’t stop, like squirts of a hose that’s been folded to build up the pressure.
The developer really started screaming, trying to grab him back off of the bed and throw him out again. I looked at him hard. “This man is sick. You can’t put him out where we can’t watch him because he’s throwing up. If he does this while laying the wrong way, he could choke himself to death. And how would that make you look?” I attempted to appeal to his ego.
He said some things in low, growling Hindi that I didn’t understand. I went into the kitchenette area and got towels and water. When it seemed that the vomit had finally stopped, I gathered up the blankets and threw those outside instead, cleaned off the servant, eventually made him drink some water, then turned to face the other guy’s wrath.
He put his hands on my face as though to slap me. I grabbed my other friends and demanded we leave.
The developer put us all back in his car and we rode silently to Delhi. I watched as the scene reversed, the tree lined streets returned, the happily beeping autos replaced the cows, and the city lights drowned out the fury in my heart.
The stench was growing stronger.