By Kriti Gupta
Hello fellow traveller,
Or should I call you ‘Man, Not From Delhi’? I know we just met earlier this evening and truth be told, at first, I was super excited to meet you. When you’re travelling solo, sometimes you simply want to find some cool people and get a few drinks with them. You know, hang out, get a beach vibe, listen to a local acoustic man singing Bob Dylan on guitar, maybe smoke some weed and just talk about life, the universe and everything in it.
I must admit that I was impressed when you guessed (correctly) that I was from Delhi. I guess ‘us Delhi girls’ have a distinctive look. I thought you must be well-travelled and well-versed with diverse cultures to identify my origins so easily.
I wanted to know which city you were from. You see, Mr. Traveller, I love learning about how different people live in different places. Travel offers a new perspective about micro cultures and local traditions. I was excited about the stories you had in store for me.
You told me the name of your lovely city and how great it is. You shared stories of how everyone was chilled out and cool. How bars had gorgeous rooftops and lovely weather all year round. I had never visited your city and was mesmerised in a way that incited the most vibrant of my imaginations.
“It’s not like Delhi,” you said, breaking me out of my reverie. I did not understand what you meant so you explained that people cared way too much about what they wore in the capital. The summer was too hot and the winter, too cold. I could infer that you, sir, are a man who loves to explain. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you why everyone was always dressed up in malls. And I definitely don’t know why people listen to Honey Singh. But, you didn’t seem disappointed when I couldn’t answer these questions.
Instead you were triumphant. You licked your lips as you informed me, “You know how I know you’re from Delhi? It’s the way you’re dressed. Only girls in Delhi dress like that. Plus you’re here, alone… drinking! Girls in other cities don’t have this confidence. They’re demure,” you whispered. “But Delhi girls, oh these Dilli ki billis, they are patakhas.”
I didn’t realise that my patakha-ness was showing through my dress. It was full-sleeved after all.
You quoted some rape statistics about the capital. “Boys in other places didn’t behave like that with their women. I am always such a gentleman with girls,” you said smiling smugly because you’d proved yourself. I understood that you just wanted to feel good about yourself. Self-love can be achieved sometimes through other-hate.
You went on to tell me how I must be sick of these Delhi boys who treat women badly. I picked a point on the wall, stared blankly and willed myself not to say anything because you had declared earlier that Delhi girls were too aggressive. I understand, sir, that us Delhi girls are the worst. We drink and smoke and wear short clothes. But surely you’d want your women to be confident and stand up for themselves? I wish I’d had the courage to ask you that, but I guess something about the moment made me feel demure.
Mr. Fellow Traveller, I was taken by surprise when you asked me if I’d stop by your hotel room later. You gave me a really winning smile as you said it. I continued to stare blankly. You assumed that I was the idiot that I so clearly must be. Yes, I am far away from you now so I’ll admit it. I deflected. On purpose.
I changed the topic by commenting on the Velvet Underground song that had just started playing in the cafe. I rambled on for a minute about the band’s origins and how my favourite song was ‘Pale Blue Eyes’.
You looked at me keenly. I was relieved when you said, “You’re not like a typical Delhi girl, are you?” I wasn’t sure how to respond so I just smiled. You seemed okay with that response. You lost interest in talking to me soon after that, and I won’t lie sir, I was thankful for it.
My aim for the evening had been to learn about another culture. And Mr Traveller, you succeeded in teaching me about the culture of stereotyping. For that I will be grateful, make no mistake about it. Us Delhi girls, we always give credit where credit is due. When I went over the evening in my mind again, I realised that I hadn’t said a single word other than my deflective ramble. So I sat down to write this to you.
I had this aggressive need to get my voice heard.
After all, I am a Dilli ki billi.
Kriti Gupta is digital growth hacker who writes in her spare time. This dichotomy of function and passion leads often to soul-crushing existentialism which she escapes by using clichés like water sports, music and denial.