• Noémie Bourdin-Habert

Delhi is a poem. Yes, a poem. (en)

Updated: Dec 11, 2019


It is quite unusual to travel without an end-date and a settling down location, right in the middle of a good rising career. It offers an immense amount of freedom - it is intoxicating even !

But we had dreams, and one of them, was to visit... India.

When we decided to take our tickets to India, it was finally like this dream coming true for both of us, and all the doubts we could have about our travels before just vanished. We knew we wanted to be there and enjoy every second of the journey. We flew all the way to Delhi, and suddenly, what we felt was surreal. For the first time in years, we didn’t recognize anything. I had been traveling and living in Asia before, but there was nothing in India that I knew.

Because India is unique.

In Delhi, it felt like we'd found one of the only capitals where IKEA, ZARA, H&M, McDONALDS, APPLE, STARBUCKS, and all the giant companies that are part of our urban landscape, had just disappeared. And the world without them looks very different - indeed. We had finally found a place where nothing was the same. Where globalization hadn’t made its way through, where people dressed in their own fashion, where they lived according to their own principles and where we obviously didn’t have the references and values to blend in. On our first night in Delhi, we were thrilled. And so did we feel for the next two months. The sounds, the colors, the smells, everything was different from what I knew, and different from what I had envisioned. I was puzzled by the mixed smells of rose incense, curry and cow poo. The funny thing is I recently read in his biography that Winston Churchill had described the smells in the exact same way when he first landed in India.

How in over a hundred years, could the smell of a country remain the very same?

I remember very clearly, the first night, walking in the middle of the Main Bazaar, looking in all directions, exploring all the scents, being dizzy from the extreme noise and the overpopulation.

I remember being exactly where I wanted to be. I remember the grace of the city. How can India manage to be so full of grace when it's so crazy? I still wonder, but the magic is here, there's no doubt.

My memories of the colors are still fresh. I can still see the textures, the noises, our chaotic wandering through the busy streets, and here and there, a group of women chanting, a man meditating, a bunch of kids playing. I remember the smile on the faces, the dignity within poverty. I remember how straight the women walk. I remember the all so many colors of their sarees. I remember the way cows wander without fear for trucks or cars.

As we sat on a rooftop of the bazaar and watched life going on as usual, we felt thrilled. We felt filled with joy. We felt, for once, so far from the rest of the entire world. I felt one of these particular feelings I know my soul never will forget.

The next day, we took a long walk within the old Delhi too, and its spice market. At first, the smell of curry takes over everything else. But soon after, there's also turmeric. Then chilli. Many different kinds of chilli. Then pepper. Then all this together... until you first sneeze.

Then, you cannot stop sneezing anymore. Your eyes cry, your nose runs, your mouth itches, and there's nothing you can do about it. Everyone else around you coughs, sneezes, spits, and cries.

Oh, the wonders of India...

But behind a stall, we found a small staircase, which goes up within a narrow, dark and dirty building. And as you go up, the sound of the bustling market fades away, and you start breathing normally again.

Until suddenly, you're on one of the most amazing rooftops of the city, above the mosque, above the spice market, and around you, Indian youth. They gather here, and talk, drink, have fun, get away from the spices, the crowd and the insane tumult. Like you.

I know this is sounding peculiar, but Delhi to me, is, and will remain, a poem. It has everything a poem should have.

It has charm, it has personality, and it has rimes. It vibrates, it resonates, it can't leave anybody indifferent.

Delhi has what most cities don't have anymore. Uniqueness. And cow poo.


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