Not so long ago I made a visit to Starbucks. In case you have missed the blurb on the sidebar, I am a coffee addict and I have wanted to visit Starbucks for over a year now. However during its early days in Delhi, the queues outside the cafe extended to the length of the block which housed it in Connaught Place. On an evening in March, last year, I had come very close to braving the crowd but was repelled by an awful cup of cinnamon flavored coffee being distributed to the people standing in the queue.
On the said day when I finally stepped inside Starbucks, I was unaccompanied and with quite a lot of idle time on my hands. I had been reading Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix since morning, all I needed was some good coffee(which I was too lazy to make) and a change of scenery. So I thought wouldn’t it be just perfect to familiarize myself with the insides of Starbucks and find a solitary corner to continue reading as well.
I found myself a table and began perusing the menu. Meanwhile on a neighboring table, an elderly woman began perusing me intently. I lifted my eyes from the menu and tried to stare hard at her, expecting her to shift her attention elsewhere. In a short while her husband joined her with their cups of coffee. I placed an order and returned to Harry Potter. From the corner of my eye, I saw her pointing a finger at me while talking to her husband. I tried to ignore her and focus on the matter at hand, more precisely, the ruckus that the Ministry of Magic was pulling at Hogwarts. But my mind kept on wondering, ‘what was it about me that caught this woman’s fancy?’. I was dressed in a casual gray top and black jeans with my hair pulled neatly into a bun, qualifying for a decent looking, well behaved girl who just wanted some coffee while she read a book. Then I realized, maybe it was the fact that I was alone that irked her. Perhaps, she was unaccustomed to the sight of a girl roaming alone in Delhi. She left in a few minutes and a bunch of guys seated themselves on the table that she vacated. I took a large sip of the white chocolate mocha and resumed reading again. To my annoyance my new neighbors chose to follow the footsteps of my former neighbors. The four of them flashed hearty grins and busied themselves goggling at me. I read a few lines, then looked around at the interiors and then helplessly eyed my maroon flip flops, hoping that they will turn their eyes away. One thing I despise in life is having to look down when a guy stares at me. It comes across as a sign of weakness and here I am doing just that. I ran through a number of plans in my head. Finally, clutching my handbag, I strolled out of Starbucks leaving behind a slice of lemon loaf cake untouched and the half filled white chocolate mocha that I resisted emptying on one of those guys.
As a child, I had always loved Delhi. It held a strange intrigue to pull me back every few months. Having spent the last three years in Delhi, I have realized that it is a very suffocating city, especially if you are a young girl who just wants to spend time alone. Walk across two blocks in Connaught Place at five in the evening and ten pairs of eyes will follow your gait. Giggle while talking on the phone in a metro, almost half the passengers will turn their sight at you. Every day you come across individuals who are anxious to pass a judgment at you. Oh she is too dressy, oh she is too modern for her own good, oh that one’s style is just bleh, oh she is too timid for surviving this city. There are horny men who are just victims of their raging hormones. Then there are uncles and aunties who will throw accusatory glances at you for daring to step out on your own. Treating you as if you are a murderer at large.
Someone old and grumpy but all the more wise had once said that some cities just grow tall in buildings while sinking lower in morals. Alas all the fascination with Delhi now seems nothing but hogwash.