I always associated Delhi with aggression, anger and impulsivity.
So when I first moved to Delhi from Bombay, I always had my guard up when talking to Delhiites, not knowing which way their unpredictable mood might swing in.
In all this, I began associating the nature of people in Delhi (which was not very accurate by the way- dilwalon ki delhi is true!) with the places here. Wherever I’d go, I’d point out everything I didn’t like about a place, forgetting to appreciate what was in front of me.
This changed when I came across Mayank Austen Soofi’s column, which resides on the 4th page of India’s Hindustan Times, and reminds thousands of readers to take a pause.
Soofi’s Delhi Walla (translating into “the one from Delhi” ) is a daily literary journalistic piece that offers a peek into Delhi’s rich heritage, culture and lifestyle. The man finds magic in the mundane and most of his stories feature local butchers, auto rickshaw drivers, random men playing cards on the road or a hawker selling sweets in the winters.
The column is important to me because it provides a breath of fresh air and a pleasant change from all the overwhelming news stories the rest of the paper contains. It indirectly asks readers to take a break, look at the things about them, and appreciate their normalcy. To be more human, and understand that everyone has a story. It reminds us that while the world we’re living in is tumultuous, there are still pockets where we can find simplicity and peace.
One story of the Delhi Walla, which I particularly adore, is called ‘Faces of Israeli Backpackers, Faruk Leather Shop.’ In just about 400 words, the piece sheds light upon the Leather shop selling bags and jackets catering to Israeli backpackers in Delhi’s hotel district, and how Covid-19 made the place seem “empty, yet full.” Empty because of the absence of the regular Israeli backpackers, and full owing to their passport size pictures stored on the shop’s desk. In a simple manner, the piece offers a more humane look into the economic crisis caused due to covid.
To me, the column is inspiring because the writing style is simple, literary and poetic, yet impactful. The author skillfully manages to combine the skills of a creative writer, along with the intrigue, curiosity and storytelling skills of a journalist.
It has a unique impact on readers that never gets boring by making them look at the city of Delhi in a new light- one that is away from politics, crime or the hustle bustle of a metropolitan capital.