Little things can sometimes change your mind and give you a kind of clarity you didn’t expect. Well. May be not little things. Umm…a road accident that could have potentially been fatal may not count as a little thing, right? No matter. It changed my perspective of Delhi, a city I love and loathe with almost equal passion at different times.
The city — known in equal measures for its wide roads and bad on-road behaviour, for its grand old monuments, ruins and history as for its crude cultural upbringing, for its effervescent political climate and magnanimous cultural outlets as also for being the “rape capital”.
And it is this identity of being women-unfriendly that weighed on our minds as we met with an accident beyond the usual Cinderella-hour for most women — post 11 p.m. After ascertaining that no one within or outside the car was hurt (mercifully because of the thin traffic at night) we quickly stepped out to see how much damage the car had suffered. No. We could not drive it away now. The tyre had burst and there was nothing to do but wait for the on-road rescue company to, well, come and rescue us. Turns out far too many vehicles had broken down that night and the tow truck could not reach us for another hour.
Visibly shaken and worried we stood there looking desperately at the wheel, hoping it would miraculously heal itself so we could get going, when one by one cars started stopping — and our guards rising with equal force. A couple of young men out for a drive (presumably), an elderly gentleman and his wife, families, single women, single men. Stranded bang on an intersection we suddenly felt overwhelmed with all the offers of help.
Able-bodied men offered to change our tyres and promptly got down to it too. They laboured and dirtied their hands to help us.
Police patrols kept a constant watch on us. One by one more cars stopped. More people offered to help. The elderly man and his wife stayed with us like we were their own children. Only after my friend’s father arrived on the scene did they move. And even then, the man insisted he would be back in 15 minutes after dropping his wife home.
I felt like hugging every person who stopped to help, even if they were just token gestures. (But maybe Delhi isn’t quite ready for that, yet!)
During that one balmy hour my perspective of rude, forever-in-a-hurry Delhi, which appears to constantly blow hot and cold, changed. Underneath all the harshness there’s still a lot of hope. It may not be perfect yet. But, maybe one day we’ll get there too.