We form relationships with cities—of love, nostalgia, frustration, wistfulness, comfort, or angst—in the same way that we form relationships with people. And this only makes sense; beyond its roads and walls and smells and sounds, a city is, after all made up of its people.
A single hour walking around New Delhi will make clear that there’s no one personality that defines the city. This complex cultural hub is certainly home to many well-heeled individuals adept in social jugglery; but it’s also home to countless shopkeepers who have faith in a mysterious system, and answer every query with the phrase ho jayega—“it will happen”—or “no worries.” Then there are the ladies who unapologetically speak their minds, gentlemen who’ve served through the country’s armed forces, and myriad young people who simultaneously believe in seizing the (modern) day and holding on some of India’s older traditions. Luckily, Delhi’s big enough for us all. Here are some of the best spots to see us going about our days.
This is the highest-end of the city’s chain of Vasant Kunj malls. The big designer brands carried here attract even bigger aspirations, so this is where you’ll see the cream of the city’s crop shopping for Ferragamo, Tom Ford, Tarun Tahiliani and Sandeep Khosla/Abu Jani. The café area might be the best seat in the house for spotting fashions from the world’s international catwalks.
India Habitat Centre
This multipurpose hub is a magnetic force for the culturally inclined, attracting real and aspiring intellectuals from all over New Delhi. You’re as likely to overhear students making a case for 140 character messages here as you are to find dames draped in handspun fabrics trying to deconstruct a tweet. Here, all the world’s a stage.
Central Park, Connaught Place
In New Delhi, there’s no point in listing “walks in the park” as a favorite activity for would-be dates; there’s no such park in which to take a walk. But Central Park, which is more like a garden, is bang in the middle of Connaught Circle and is a refuge for couples who need a few moments of togetherness away from prying families. Miraculously, picnicking families a few steps away mind their own business (a great thing in itself to watch).
The city’s network of speedy steel carriages carries 2.4 million people every single day. What a great spot to watch people! For fun, give up the seat you’re sitting on, just to see the most powerful stares and battles of propriety. While riding, you can eavesdrop on people conducting business, colleagues dissecting what exactly the last company e-mail was all about, and couples trying to decide what to do for dinner.
Diplomatic Enclave at Chanakyapuri
Thanks to its status as capital, New Delhi welcomes the diplomatic community from across the globe (whether they stay in India for a few days or a few years). Chanakyapuri is an affluent neighborhood that houses many embassies and the staff that work in them. Check out some of the big-name hotels in the area to spy some of the city’s high-rolling diplomats, winging it desi style.