Monday, May 13, 2013

Mom-in-the-city: That Famous Delhi Attitude

This was my article in a feature called 'Moms and the City' in the Hindustan Times, Saturday, May 11th. The feature also had articles by three other lovely ladies that I know!

Below is the unedited version of my bit on 'That Famous Delhi Attitude', which I personally liked better in its longer avatar ;)

''I lived for twenty years in Delhi, before moving to mild-mannered Bangalore, and then to no-nonsense Mumbai. And now, I find myself back here as a mom, and attempting to raise three kids, to boot. Of course, it’s tough enough being a mom by itself, and some things about Delhi don’t help. Including the issue of kids’ safety and what reports ominously declare about the pollution levels. But I also worry about a different kind of pollution – bringing up my kids exposed full blast to that famous Dlliwala Attitude.

I notice the subtle variants of the D.A. (let’s call it the D.A., shall we? Abbreviations are almost always cool.). There’s ‘The-Customer-is-always-Fight.’ I was waiting with my kids at a rather understaffed Blackberry store. Suddenly, a balding middle-aged man started screaming about his phone –full of self-righteous agitation, he made his dissatisfaction amply clear, using the choicest of the expressions involving mothers and sisters of the hapless store staff. I would have intervened, but I was busy trying to cover three small pairs of ears with only two hands, and frankly – yeh Dilli hai, meri jaan - so I was mildly afraid and half-expecting a spontaneous shootout.

Then there’s ‘Haan-Yeh-Mere-Baap-ki-Sadak-hai’, more boringly called Road Rage. I found myself standing on the highway, attempting to reason with an enraged man, whose sole goal in life seemed to be the removal of the innards of my taxi-driver, with a wrench that he had rather resourcefully produced during their heated argument. Eventually, we were able to leave, innards shaken but not removed. I was particularly glad that I was travelling minus the kids that day, shuddering to think about their witnessing this.

The ever-ready-for-a-fight attitude is not limited to uncouth men who spout mother-sister gaalis, but sometimes the mother-sisters themselves, in the variant ‘Well-Manicured-but-not-Well-Mannered’. At the lovely Bookaroo fair, I was in the line for snacks with my daughter and my sister, listening with mild amusement to the ranting of two ladies behind us. They complained about the Delhi heat (this was November), the overall terrible management of the fair, and lamented the fact that the Chow-mein would finish by the time they reached the front. As we finally made it for our turn to order, the ladies (who I’ll fondly refer to as The Aunties) tried to elbow us aside. My sister and I, not ones to take things lying down, raised an objection, and this caused the Aunties to get even more aggressive, taking out all their Chow-mein-related frustration on us. Eventually, we had to swallow our anger and let it go, largely because my 5-year old daughter was watching the exchange, wide-eyed and confused.

Now, I do personally see plenty of perks of living in Delhi. We have family here, and good help for the kids; the newer schools are great, and our children love going there, which is more than I can say for myself as a kid.  There are definite pockets of decency, such as the nice people who intervened to stop the wrench-fight, including a bulky Sardarji whom I never got to thank properly in all the hullaballoo. For me, for all that Delhi is and as exasperating as it can be – it is home.

So I’ve decided that if I have to figure out a way to counter the influence on my kids of that D.A –the endearing, uniquely-Delhi combination of aggression and pompous self-entitlement –by George, I’ll do it. 

Because after all -  I too am a Daughter of Delhi -and therefore, ever-ready for fight.''


  1. Dilli is such an amazing city to grow up in, Y, despite the DA. I know you're making the most of it.

  2. Love the attitude labels! Look forward to hearing the new ones you find for yourself as you reclaim your city.

  3. Sigh. Tolerance levels of humans seems to have gone down big time in the recent years. Just for the sake of random talk, I would even say that all the mobile phones and virtual-world-all-the-time-on-Facebook is frying our minds. It's very irritating to see literate individuals behave like that. Have had my share on run-ins too. Must have been worse with kids around, because they learn so quickly. You do not want them to be picking up bad stuff!

  4. Its not just DA it is with north indians.. people in Jaipur and many other parts of north India share the same attitude..

  5. I was born and raised in ' mild mannered ' Bangalore as you put it:-). I have witnessed the IT boom, and with it the influx of north Indians. We were surprised to see the pompous, arrogant attitude of these people, and that too in a city which is new to them. Good for them, Bangaloreans have always had an open heart and mind!
    PS- enjoyed reading your book and now hooked to your blog! Expect more comments from me!

  6. A heart warning post!! :).

    Being born & brought up here, there are many reasons to fall in love with Delhi!!.


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