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The Delhiwaalas Outside Delhi

Suchita posted on 24 September

There has always been a debate on the effects of nature versus nurture in a person's upbringing. Taking from here, we thought it would be interesting to see the role 'nature' plays in a persons demeanor and coping mechanism, especially if he or she moves out of their hometown. Naturally, we chose to look at this in terms of Dilli and its effect on its people. What is it about having grown up in Delhi that a Dilliwallah takes with them wherever they go? We got in touch with a bunch of people originally from the capital who now live and work in other cities or countries, and it is very interesting to see what part of Delhi they hold on to, and what part of Delhi holds on to them.



Chandana and Devki, aged 26, are currently investment bankers in London. They left Delhi at the age of 18 to complete their education. Chandana graduated from University of Oxford and Devki graduated from London School of Economics and Political Science. 

"The city you grow up in always remains an inherent part of your identity, a piece of you that you carry wherever you go. Growing up in a typical Punjabi family, we took our larger-than-life attitude wherever we went. This was evident in our interactions with friends and colleagues, where we were either the first one to plan a social gathering with friends or extend a welcoming hand to complete strangers. Some would often mistake our behavior as being either too generous or too excess, but for me, this was our way of life, the values that we had been raised with.

Another thing central to Delhiwallas is their love for food. Sitting in the cultural hub of northern India, we definitely know our food well and truly have an evolved palate. This passion for food gives us a different kind of appreciation for cultures and cuisines worldwide, and allows us to transcend national and International boundaries very easily. Unsurprisingly, our closest friends at university were all from Pakistan, a country very similar to ours, but a culinary haven we Indians seldom get to experience. We can comfortably say being from Delhi allowed me to go ahead and enjoy some of the most enriched cultural and culinary experiences worldwide. Last, but not least, Delhi is a cultural melting pot, with people and cultures from all over the country.

Today, it also has one of the biggest expat populations in India. It truly represents the diversity and secular nature India stands for. I {Devki} went to school at Convent of Jesus and Mary on Bangla Sahib Marg. Coming to school every morning meant crossing Delhi's famous Mandir Marg, the biggest Cathedral, Sacred Hearts and most the prominent Gurudwara, Bangla Sahib. This daily ritual taught me one of the most crucial life lessons on acceptance and tolerance… to observe without judgement. This is the only thing that people leaving home and travelling to a new city need to understand and imbibe. This is the sole determinant of how well you blend into a foreign culture among complete strangers.

Luckily for us, all these virtues were always inherent in my personality as a Delhiwaala."



A graduate in Finance, Rohan has worked in different countries including Africa. He is currently working for Unilever in Bombay and lives in Bandra. This Modern School Barakhama alumni calls Delhi home.  

"During college in the UK, 'Delhiites' were frequently teased by 'Bombayites' about being spoiled and pampered. Although there are a considerable number of people in that category, I never thought I, and many of my friends, would be part of it.

Living in Bombay made me realize that I was wrong. We take for granted that the only way to get around the city in Delhi is in our own cars, someone else's car, or MERU cabs. Although the Delhi Metro is quite good, trips on it are few and far between.

Bombay is different. People with or without cars are quite dependent on auto rickshaws, yellow taxis, and to some extent, the railways. They know how to get around when a car is not available to them. But us 'Delhiites' would feel handicapped without a car.

This was a big reality check. And this reality check is not only attributed to the way we have been brought up. It is also attributed to the lack of safe and viable transport options in Delhi.

A 'pampered and spoiled' life lies behind me. Now, I am completely dependent on Bombay's transport lifeline - the trains and rickshaws. Life in Delhi did not prepare me for this and that's why, many of my friends from Bombay used to tell me, "Delhi people can't adjust to Bombay life." Well I have! And if I can, any of you can. No matter how difficult, I believe we 'Delhiites' are up to any challenge."


SAHIL MEHRA, Phillipines

Born and brought up in Delhi, Sahil went on to study in Ohio for University, after which he has been working in Manila, Philippines for the past few years, for Aegis People Support. 

"One of the best perks of being from a city like Delhi is that you can adjust to any city or culture in the world. Young adults like us go abroad to get exposure to various perspectives, but what we realize after getting out is that half of that so called "exposure" we have already been exposed to in Delhi - well, at least that's what I felt.

The most important thing for me when I enter a new city is to interact with as many people as possible to get comfortable with them and vice versa. So my personality is what I thank Delhi and Dilliwalas for. It's because of that nurturing that I can talk to almost anyone in this world and still be at ease. The city has made me outgoing, upfront and someone who can be easily be approached and that, to me, are the best qualities you can have when you are trying to settle down in a completely new environment. Some colleagues of mine {from various other parts of the world} needed to get out of their comfort zone to build that strong relationship with Filipinos, but being a dilliwaala, and having a dilliwala's personality, that has always been my comfort zone and most of the time the culture/people you are adapting to see that as well. And I know this why - because all my Filipino team mates, who only knew about Bombay in India {because of Bollywood, of course} now think of Delhi first when they think of India in any way, and I see that first hand with a smile on my face.

So when I went to join my company in Manila - I was the first person to join them from Delhi. Naturally, most of my team was Filipino. I started working night shifts {8pm to 5am}. One thing I started noticing here was that on Fridays, after a hard workweek, everyone used to go straight home - no bar/pub/club/house party - which was very strange to me {probably because the shift ended at 5am, but still}. And being from Delhi, one thing I know is that when that Friday shift is coming to an end, all everyone is thinking about is that chilled beer with friends/work mates, and I am no different. So being a true dilliwala, I started to convince all my team mates to come in early for work so we could close early and do justice to a Friday night, which is what I have been used to. So it's been a couple of years here now, and that 8pm to 5am shift has changed to a 3pm to 12am shift on most Fridays. So now my Filipino team mates share my dilli funda of working like crazy during the week but, when that Friday shift ends, you owe it to yourself to go crazy!"



Bhavana, a 23 year old Kuchipudi dancer from Delhi, and a singer, studied at Musicians Institute, Hollywood Boulevard-LA.

"First of all, I have to say Delhiites rule. I think the entire social, open-minded approach in Delhi has prepared me for any world, country or city in this universe. Mingling with people at parties, events, exhibitions, performances etc is so similar to the open-minded culture I face at meet and greets, social gatherings, and parties I attend in the US. Men and women, no matter where they are in this world, have certain ways and, if we are open and accepting, we can blend in with or stand out in any culture we want. I like that Delhi is full of people from different cities and so diverse, which prepared me for the same thing in LA. Delhi, being a metropolitan city, is not very different from Hollywood, LA. Also, thanks to being the capital of India, sitting in Delhi we are very often exposed to news and trends from all over the world, let alone all of India. In terms of food alone, we are so well exposed to cuisines of  the world - we have Andhra food, dosas from Tamil Nadu, Chinese, Thai, Greek - you name it, we have it. Culturally too, I think the music, dance and drama scene is picking up, in accordance with world trends, and it's great! When it comes down to it, I think Delhi is not far from LA in terms of being worldly. Growing up in the city already put me so in tune with the world. In LA too, like I did in Delhi, I search for new restaurants, new shows I can watch, new music I can listen to. There's no end to exploring!"


AANCHAL GOENKA | Sierra Leone, Africa

Aanchal Goenka, 27, is married and shuttles between West Africa and Singapore.

"Whether it's the flea markets of Delhi, or cute little designer stores in quiet lanes, or the busy Emporio mall… be it the really humble street kids on one side or the brats in school… the chai dhabas under trees or sexy French-Italianish coffee shops in Khan market… Delhi has given me the strongest foundation possible not only to survive, but actually happily explore and enjoy the diversity of a new city. Living in Sierra Leone was one thing… but falling in love with the country of blood diamonds was another. Delhi has taught me how to fall in love over and over again… with new people,  places, cultures and food! The only reason I could enjoy loud music, with big african ladies dancing away to glory, as much as I enjoyed sophisticated lebanese ladies dancing to the latest soft rock, was because of my very colorful upbringing in Dilli. Absolutely adore Delhi…the city that kept me safe by teaching me how to keep my guard up with strangers, but still make the best friends, from all over the world."