Delhi through the eyes of a Chicken Pox-ed Delhiwalla
On 9.07am, July 7th, 2009, Dr. Gandhi in his sparse-looking clinic, tucked next to a Costa Coffee outlet, in Bengali Market, diagnosed me with chicken pox. Since it’s a highly contagious, air-borne disease, I’ve been grounded for at least ten days in my library in Nizamuddin Basti. At the time of writing this piece, my scalp, forehead, cheeks, nose, neck, chest, stomach, arms, back, palms, fingers, groin, balls, thighs, legs, feet are dotted with blisters.
These boils start as a pretty red swelling. They then gradually become bigger, itchier and their surface turns a bit glassy. When I was at Dr Gandhi’s, there were only a few red scars below my neck. 21 hours later, following a long sleepless night, I looked at myself on the bathroom mirror and instead saw Baba Yaga, that horribly disfigured pockmarked witch of Russian fairy tales.
I was obviously infected by somebody.
Who could that person be? In the last seven days leading to Dr. Gandhi’s diagnosis, I had walked around in Nizamuddin Basti, bought books at Bahrisons in Khan Market, ordered for a salad platter at Subway in Connaught Place, had a stroll outside the Old Delhi railway station, visited a sufi shrine near Sadar Bazar, talked to pimps in GB Road, ate grilled fish in India International Center, gifted a book to a friend in her Jor Bagh bungalow… just where I caught the virus?
Now as I’m confined to this little room, the world has divided itself into two kinds of people – those who have chicken pox and those who haven’t.
And I’m feeling alone.
The window of my room here in Nizamuddin Basti is shut closed, as is the door. But the pox-free world is making its presence felt. I can hear a chatty buzz-buzz in the butchery downstairs. Someone has just started laughing. I can also tell that a few boys are flying kites on the facing rooftop. The Bangladeshi women beggars have begun squabbling once again. Now someone is running down the street. And this is the sound of birds, gliding from one terrace to another. Soon it will be the time for evening prayers. After that, the qawwals will settle down in the courtyard of Hazrat Nizamuddin’s dargah and get on with their qawwalis. But I won’t be there. I cannot do things that I love most: walking in Delhi bylanes, listening to its people, taking their pictures.