I feel a strange sense of satisfaction mixed with the normal trepidation, as I ride in a rickshaw over bumpy inner roads to and from my Guruji’s home in an old, forgotten nook of Delhi called Suiwalan. This area is one of the most congested and dilapidated parts of Delhi - and yet it still feels like the heart of the city, the heart of an era. To think these streets were once dotted by mansions of royal nobles of the Mughal dynasty of India, prior to British rule. This neighborhood was once part of Shahjehanabad, the walled city of Old Delhi founded by emperor Shahjehan, who used this land as a canvas for some of India’s most creative architecture. The “walled city,” is properly named – it does seem insulated and separate from the rest of Delhi, which is modern and developed.
Today, I see small ancestral shops and shopkeepers who have never known anything outside of this one Muslim neighborhood. I see 3 kids who run a lassi stall all day in the blazing heat, stopping to take a selfie on one of their phones. I look at my rickshaw puller in front of me and imagine what it could be like to be him. To only know this one life of being a shopkeeper or a rickshaw driver in Suiwalan my entire life.
In this environment, no one notices me; I blend right in as another Indian girl in a rickshaw. No one, not even my Guruji, can imagine the life I live in the States; and probably, no one in the States could imagine this journey I take daily in Suiwalan. I hang onto my rickshaw rail with contentment, for I am given this opportunity to live so many vastly different lives in one lifetime.