7 Things to Love About Delhi

As a single girl of 28, I lived in Delhi for two years with roommates in a second story flat overlooking our neighborhood park. Now here I am with a family of four shifting back to Delhi after 10 years. It’s starting to get real! (I wish I had that emoji with the big overwhelmed eyes to express my feelings right now)

This week as I made preparations for the kids to attend school so many memories came flooding back.

I write this for all the friends who say, “Why would you live in Delhi?” You will easily hear about the vices that come with a megacity of some 27 million, but I’d like to tell you, about some of the fabulous things that Delhi has to offer.

1.  Laughter Yoga & Other Such Phenomena

#onlyindelhi.

I’ve never actually done laughter yoga, but I’ve witnessed it morning after morning from my balcony overlooking the neighborhood park. Many of the aunties and uncles in our enclave would gather in the park around 7 am and you could hear the “Ha ha ha ha haaa’s” around the block. What a hilarious phenomenon adhered to by many dignified Indians in many neighborhoods around the city. And similarly, if you search #onlyindelhi on Instagram, you’ll find such funny and ironic traditions that—as the hashtag implies—can only be experienced in the great city of Delhi.

2.  An Artist’s Paradise

There is no possible way to describe the sensory delights in Delhi that await the creative soul. From the bead market of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk to the up-and-coming designers and artist’s studios in South Delhi; from the timeless architecture to sunsets and textures, inspiration will find you in Delhi.

India is a complex, messy, rich, and passionate assault to the senses, and Delhi itself has provided centuries of material for the writer, painter, or songwriter. If perfection strangles the soul and “messy brings about beautiful art”* then Delhi is an artist’s paradise.

  3.  Shopping

I’m not much of a shopper, but shopping in Delhi ruined me.  I love unique, hand-made, local handicrafts, up-and-coming designers, antiques, pieces with tons of history, and I also appreciate the affordable things in life.  You will find all of these in Delhi. You can spend your day in a market haggling over silver bangles or a lavish mall where Apple sits next to Anokhi and Chumbak.

My favorite shopping experience in Delhi are the antique warehouses.  While hunting with roommates for affordable furnishings for our apartment, we were told about these “warehouses” outside the city. After visiting a place that we later referred to as the “Indiana Jones” place, I would forever be sorely disappointed with antique shopping in the US.  Giant dusty warehouses jam-packed with antique wooden furniture that takes you back to hand-painted, ornate, Rajasthani pieces, or British raj style clerical desks and chairs, all piled on top of one another along the walls.  Room after room of treasures at 1/4 the price you would pay at Pier 1 (one chain that these places export goods to).

4.  Architecture

Delhi’s history, diversity, and magnitude of architecture will blow your mind. Red Fort (build in 1648, the largest monument in Delhi), the Jamma Masjid (the largest mosque in India), the Qutub Minar (which was built in 1193), and the 10 sq mile area of government residential properties called Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ). You can even stay at the original bungalow that Lutyens lived in (am I the only one excited by this??!), which has been restored and beautifully maintained.  Check it out at this link.

Surrounding that area it feels like you’ve stepped back to the British colonial era, yet Lutyens specifically incorporated eastern designs and concepts into this unique architectural style.  The Imperial Hotel is also worth catching a pricey cup of tea at, for sitting in this historic, majestic hotel where English royalty and famous generals stayed and dined.

If you want to splurge, go for High Tea! You’ll be dreaming of those multi-tiers of sandwiches, scones, and cups of tea and coffee for days.

5.  Diversity

You’re welcome to google Delhi’s statistics yourself (this would require an entire extra post or two), but between the number of languages spoken, number of distinctly different people groups (similar to going from China Town to Little Italy in San Francisco), the massive generational differences, and the vast chasms between the various segments of society– traditional and modern, rich and poor, academic, business, labor, and artist communities, your study in cultures would never come to an end.

I find the diversity in Delhi to be one of the most energizing and intriguing aspects of the city.  Yet my approach to life in Delhi is to pick a neighborhood, an area, where much of my living, exercising, eating, shopping, and socializing is done, and to really get to know the cultures within that pocket of town.  As I grow in the ability to thrive anywhere I end up living, I find that I do best when I settle into one pocket and get to know people deeply. There is no satisfaction quite like this.  So don’t let the diversity overwhelm you.

6.  Young India

One thing I love about Delhi is college students and young adults everywhere. They create this creative, energizing vibe throughout the city.  Half of India’s population is under the age of 35, and Delhi feels even younger. The movers and shakers of India reside in Delhi, and the art and culture, the new cuisine and food chains, the growth of social areas like Hauz Khas Village and Shahpur Jat reflect a global, quickly changing influential younger generation. With 3 of India’s top ranking universities in Delhi, the city boasts some 500,000 university students who must achieve 99-100% on their final exams in order to attend these schools.  Delhi’s youth are sharp, articulate, and taking over the globe.

7.  Lodi Gardens

Lodi Gardens represents two of the coolest aspects of the city: its stunning Mughal era architecture left standing amid a rapidly transforming metropolis and its gardens.

Unlike Mumbai or Chennai, someone flying into Delhi might be amazed at the massive patches of greenery—both landscaped and natural—that remain throughout the city. In fact, it’s not the suburban outer areas, but the manicured capitol area that reflects the careful design of India’s capitol 50 years ago. Wide sweeping roads, roundabouts, sidewalks, and manicured lawns characterize “New Delhi”, and when the weather and precipitation are right, I love visiting various gardens and parks and seeing families and elderly couples walking the pathways.

In Delhi; however, gardening is not just for the civil planners or the wealthy. Despite containing some of the world’s poorest and richest populations in one tight squeeze, floral beauty can be found just about anywhere. You’ll find potted gardens on tiny balconies of high rises, and lush fountained courtyards in century-old havellis.  But you’ll also find tiny brick shacks in a slum with potted flowers edging the doorstep and vines carefully grown around the doorframe.

It was in India that I learned to find and cultivate natural beauty in my home, no matter where I live and no matter what it’s like. Many of the citizens of Delhi have inspired me in their resilience and ability to create beauty of many forms–regardless of hardship or circumstances.

I hope that these 7 things have tempted you to visit Delhi because no city is perfect, but each one is worth embracing in some way, shape or form!