Impressions of Delhi

Time? Who knows. The moon is an opaque orb in a great glass sky. Blue in her paleness. We fly over endless sandy hills, snow capped, still under the rivets of low clouds that scrape the horizon. My window angles a strange panorama that I will never know. Not in this lifetime. 

I remember the map of Afghanistan tucked away on a side street in Delhi, the restaurant's name escapes me. Riya, my host, an architect, and part-time historian extraordinaire of all things Delhi, dives into recounting an Afghan King's demise and his tragedy of a horrendous appearance and attempts at compensation. I suppose in contradiction to the shy green-eyed waiters. She notes on the map where his dominion once was. Looking below at the miles passing in the extraordinarily clear morning I wonder if this expanse lies in that old territory. Kabul is about a two hour flight from Delhi. I imagine it was roughly that length between take-off and my window gazing. 

On this Moscow bound plane a strange collection of beautiful Russians give me odd looks. I, wrapped In a Naga blanket, looking unabashedly brown. Making even some of the Indians nervous. Might I be a Naga militant en route for training in Chechnya? Well, I prefer the title of thee Chicano Prince (aka Naga dignitary). But again, what can I say but who knows? 

It's interesting how a place can become home within 25 days. The staircase, the gate, the lock, a bedroom, a kitchen. Daily rhythms and the intimacy of space. Morning coffees that evolved from instant to Italian/Turkish brews after a generous gift from one of Riya's friends. Long discussions that certainly deserve their place on the floor of the UN general assembly create their own histories and spaces. You can feel it on the walls, the impressions on chairs, the warmth of a tablecloth, the gradual collections of friends coming and going. 

Bells sound distantly in the morning, the songs sung in the Sikh temple echo softly down the side streets, men offering their labor and goods give reverberating calls between wall and window. Latinoamerica weighs deeply on my mind. But the dust alleys of Delhi, all the neighborhoods I can say but not spell, are present on my skin. The kiss of this city leaves apparent marks on my flesh, perhaps all of South Asia has. Perhaps all of these past 3.5 months are present so too. I unflinchingly move through traffic; time and space have become Asian, but I more American and yet the 'least American' Midwest boy you will meet; a walking contradiction with a scattered phrase book spread across three continents- who looks and speaks like Pharrel, and I don't mind such comparison; those radiant brown eyes spark in stories, on rooftop haze, in forgotten histories, and in Spanish she sways, leaving behind only ripples on a wave. 

What is a city made of tombs? Chai Wallahs and repressed forbidden lovers hiding in the groves of medieval fort garrisons, etched in the metro that slices undaunted by it's boldness across a city of many worlds. This I do not know. But I think neither do the historians. The auto drivers and  truck hands contemplate such things and tell no one, at least not us. Maybe I am being romantic. 'Yes' she might say 'now read more Neruda'. 

Such things redefine the intimacies of space. In the smoke and still nights of Delhi I came and went with the moon.