Loving in Delhi
One never sees them hanging out with men: these itinerant women of the streets. They sell flowers, toys, luminescent curios and miniature flags, and those with babies on their hips they beg for money. They are all malnourished like most of us in India. But they are beautiful and mysterious, and I imagine with the kind of life they live they must be learning things about life that I will never know.
One day in Gurgaon, me and my friend Arjun, we were having an enlivening conversation about women and sex. He told me not to be desperate and know that every moment was already an ongoing sexual act between Shiv-Shakti. Just on the side of the pavement a street-woman in her gypsy attire was entreating to an auto-driver. I noticed her from the corner of my eye, and I could see that there was truth in what Arjun said. The whole thing was pointless—I should not be getting desperate and rush myself to the end of the desire. I needed to respect the desire and wait for the right moment, I needed to let it unfold naturally to its proper destiny. The mendicant woman approached us now—I stopped and smiled at her. “What?” I asked her. She looked like a zombie—her face had faded into ash—she was a dead flesh walking through life. She did not say anything but extended her hand. Her long skirt, her tight blouse and thin veil had visibly lost their glittery designs and was now faded into a shroud of dullness and dust. I fished out my wallet and withdrew some coins. I held out the coins but she had seen that I had cash with me. “What is your name?” I asked her, “You tell me your name, and I will give it.” She stood there her face going blank. I walked away but she came after me. I took out a ten rupee note and extended it out to her, and on the last second I held back. “If you tell me your name I will give you,” I told her looking at her face, and dashed away from her. She had dark eyebrows and large eyes, her nose was a chiseled piece of art. She came running after me and so I stopped and turned. She stood still, looking at my mellifluent eyes. I repeated my proposition, dead earnest. “Bas..nti,” she said. Ah! My heart made a leap. “What?” I asked her. “Basanti—my name is Basanti.” “Basanti, you look just like your name,” I said and handed her the money. Arjun laughed at me, and I grinned back at him with joy.
I do love home but I love Delhi too. Home is where my innocent past is but Delhi is part of my daring future. At home I almost know everyone in the village but here in Delhi it’s different. Here I encounter hundreds of new faces daily. They walk past me, sit beside me, stand until the next stop. I will never see them again in my life. All of us millions carrying our own ambitions, thinking our own thoughts, performing our own prayers for each other.