There's a lot to be said about hospitality in Delhi. Having lived in Mumbai for the better part of my life now, i left Delhi and its mentality behind ages ago, got swept into the fast paced, nonchalance of Mumbai life.
The difference was stark, and it hit me hard. I was in Delhi the day holi was celebrated. From the previous day, my aunt and nearly everyone in the house was fervently cleaning the house (so the holi revelry doesnt dirty it?!) making holi food (Dahi Bhallas, Matthi, Gujjias, Shakkarpara etc). This went on for the entire day - i was made to eat dinner in my room since the entire surface area of the dining table (a 12 seater mind you) was covered with food!
Point being, so much trouble was being taken in order to serve the guests that would invariably drop by on Holi. I had my doubts, lookng at the quantity of food that was made. Wrong i was, as
early morning a flood of unidentified people were gathered in the living room. Neighbours, colleagues, friends everyone who knew my aunt and uncle looked like they were present.
I soon caught on to the festivities and reluctantly offered my face to the everyone who was waiting with baited breath. On Holi, a completely untouched, clean person is anyone's most desired bakra. People i did'nt know coloured my face and hair and wished me happy holi. What i enjoyed was the fact that everyone who i dint know, very gently rubbed colour into my face. It was a mix of 'your not supposed to be clean on holi, you ought to be pulverized with colour' and 'i dont know you, so ill be nice, lest you get offended'.
Of course, a seemingly innocent walk outside (to go to the Shiv temple outside) out of sheer naiviete led to a downfall, and i got smattered with more colour. Luckily it was mostly all dry since my refuge was my 6 month old niece who i was thankfully given the responsibility to handle.
Here is what it all leads to. Mumbai festivals. (Categorically speaking of myself here, as many of you might have family and hence celebrate festivals in a big way) I dont have ANY family (other than my folks and sibling) in Mumbai. Like 99% Mumbaikars, i live in a flat system and i dont remember entering any of my neighbours houses. Holi, Diwali and other festivals are subdued, usually small Puja's with four of us at home, followed by the traditonal food.
I have three neighbours - Catholic, Parsi, Parsi and Us. My building is predominantly Catholic/Parsi hence most festival celebrations are somewhat diluted. Although i would like to mention that my catholic neighbours children celebrate Diwali with equal zest.
I loved that people walked in and out of my aunts house in Delhi. I loved that if you dont go visiting your relatives and friends on holi and other festivals, they could be offended. I loved that the dining table was full of oily festival food and that my aunt spent the entire previous day lamenting about what she would do in case she fell short of food (HOW that would have happened considering the quantity of food made was beyond me). but thats Delhi for you. its the 'Beta tumne to kuch khaya hi nahi' (you havent eaten at all) after having eaten like a glutton or 'Yeh to short notice par itna hi kar pai' (in short notice, this is all i could manage) after having served you more food than you couldve eaten on an empty stomach.
I loved that people in Delhi dont necessarily have more time, but they make it. Family, friends, festivities take precendent over clients, deadlines or targets. That sense of longing i felt for that feeling of carefree frolic, of reckless joy, in a room surrounded by mostly strangers (to me) was something i dint know i missed living here.
But I do, and I hate that I know I do. And i hate that wishing doesnt make things better.