Living in the city

Is it Delhi I want to run away from, or something else?

Living in the city
Photo by Hakan Nural / Unsplash

A strange feeling came to me a few nights ago. I felt suffocated by my room, by the colony, by all of Delhi outside. The thought of stepping out on the roads and encountering traffic made me want to throw up. It took me a while to shake that off and fall asleep, but it was there again in the morning.  

I thought I could live my whole life in Delhi, but a switch went off that night and I am not so sure anymore. I want to put my finger today on this feeling, which I can only describe for now as alienation from cities at large.

If you ask me to describe the kind of life I want, I would tell you I dream about finishing a cup of chai holding the same thought in my head, or reading a 100 pages of a book in a single sitting. I would talk about having long, meandering conversations with friends without once looking at the time.

It's not like I couldn't live this life in the city, but when I think about doing this, my mind goes to blinkit and 10-minute grocery delivery, or to people stuck in traffic who always seem to be running out of time. I picture a whole crowd rushing down the stairs of the metro station in the mornings.

That's all I know for now, but the feeling made me revisit this timeless essay by Joan Didion from 1967. 'Goodbye to All That' is her parting letter to New York, and she captures something timeless about the experience of being a young person in a city.

(This is a scanned PDF from Didion's famous essay collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Read it on a desktop or print it out for the best experience.)

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