It isn't cold anymore. I wear sandals on weekends. But tonight, there was a chill in the air as I walked the never-ending walk to my train station. I walked past a local woman burning paper and wood in a metal container, as is the perplexing custom here. She stoked the fire with a long iron rod and there it was - Delhi.
The smell of burning wood, its warmth against my bare leg and the cool wind in my face. That is all it took for me to be 15 again, for me to be standing outside my block, next to the tired security guards and their dying fire, for me to be waiting for the 7.15 bus to take me to school. And I longed for that time, some more of that time, so much that I almost choked on my duty-free cigarette.
I am so removed, so distant from those days but I still can't help going back. But you can't go back. Even when you do. It is never the same again. Sometimes, when I visit Delhi and drive around in a car, I get glimpses of the place that used to be, the place that still lives in my heart. A wide road lined with trees, a man with a cart selling peanuts and yellow popcorn. The bright orange of the setting sun, bringing alive the film of sand hovering over the city. The gurbani heard from a rooftop, the smell of aloo-tikkis. But it is never complete. I can't replicate something that existed ten years ago. Something that existed only for me. I still seek out the omelet-sandwich man when I go back and the damn omelet never tastes the same.
And so I am stuck in-between. Forever longing for the place that doesn't exist anymore, never satisfied with where I am now. I treat these new streets so carelessly, tottering around on Tuesday nights, and yet I worry that when I leave them, they will bring me more despair. I know myself, I will sit in another new city and look back on tonight and wonder if it's possible to do it again. As if everything in life is open to negotiation. As if there's a from-the-top option.
Maybe I'm rambling, maybe I shouldn't listen to The Cure so much, maybe I just prefer living in my head. It makes me sad but it also makes reality more bearable, in a twisted way. I have always been an advocate of escapism, of wanting something you know you can't have just so that what you have doesn't hurt you as much. Or maybe I enjoy pain, just as long as it's of my own choosing.
We can't stand being told what to feel.