This article by Vikramjit Singh was first published as a Facebook Note.
Just like the rest of us, Delhi-based Stand Up Comic Vikramjit Singh was mighty impressed by Virat Kohli's swashbuckling half-century last Saturday that won India their World T20 encounter against arch-rivals Pakistan.
But instead of just applauding India's batting stalwart and getting lost in the frenzy of our 11-0 aggregate in World Cup encounters against the neighbours, the former advertising professional went on to dissect the cricketer. While there's no questioning the fact that his talent and dedication plays a huge part in Kohli's success, being born and brought up in Delhi has also played a big part into moulding Kohli into the cricketer/person he is.
Here's what Vikramjit wrote:
Virat Kohli and the two sides of Delhi
It shouldn’t, but it does. And it happens every time Virat Kohli does something impressive. I begin tracing him and his personality back to the city he grew up in. A bit like Sri Sri Ravishankar claiming credit for India’s win, I tend to credit Delhi for Kohli.
This stupid tendency for finding connections and patterns was given a final nudge when I read this tweet by @karachikhatmal: “Kohli gifting the bat and Kohli’s “it’s our fucking hometown” bit capture the impressive emotional range of the player.”
For the uninitiated, Kohli gifted his bat to Mohammad Aamir before the match, and after the match hugged his teammates saying "That's it guys. It's our fucking hometown, nobody's taking it away yaar".
Between that “All the best” gesture and that “We kicked your ass” statement lies not just the emotional range of Kohli, but also of Delhi. In which other city can you hear the same person call your mom a whore(and mean it), and also call you his brother(and mean it), in the space of a single day?
If this sounds like a biased paean unto Delhi, it’s not. I’m not even a “Delhi boy”. I’ve only been here for 5 years, and much of what I adore about it comes from the books I’ve read on it, the stories I’ve heard from the 60s-90s, the Mughal magnificence casually scattered around, the conversations I overhear in the metro and ‘the food’. I’m reminded of what Vir Sanghvi once wrote in one of his columns: “When a new restaurant opens up in Mumbai, people go to be seen. When it opens up in Delhi, people flock there for the food”.(Delhi’s inclination to ‘be seen’ is no less, but let’s keep the Delhi-Mumbai debate for another time.) In most other cities, food is a part of the plan. In Delhi, plans get made around food.
What struck me most about Delhi, and this might explain that intense love for food, was this fierce desire that you see everywhere. Be it for the nihari at Jama Masjid, for labels and brands, for sex- which made for ugly, depressing stories when someone refused.
Maybe that’s why when Virat Kohli does get what he wants, he celebrates not with a grateful smile, but with an angry “Sabki maa chod di” swish of the bat. He can’t be as even-tempered as a Rahul Dravid because he didn’t grow up in an even-tempered city like Bangalore, where there are no seething undercurrents, least of all in the weather, unlike Delhi.
It’s a city where following the rules is scoffed at. Which, when it comes to sportsmen and artists and anything that requires you to be ‘disruptive’, is a good thing. They tend to find their own styles rather than sit comfortably on an assembly line. Indian Ocean’s music stands firmly rooted, unaffected by the trappings of Bollywood and its pre-conceived notions about ‘what works’.
There seems to be this strange, reckless ambition in everyone from Delhi who’s risen to the top. Take a Shah Rukh Khan who entered the film industry and began mouthing his “I’m the best” talk even before his first big hit. To paraphrase Javed Akhtar talking about him, “I’m amazed at his ability to be ruthlessly competitive, yet stay warm and considerate”.
How you look at this “emotional range”, both Kohli’s and Delhi’s, depends on who you are. Some might even choose to call it ‘hypocrisy’. Like they do with the guy who leches at women he doesn’t know, but protects his own from lechers like himself. He’ll make plans because “tu mera bhai hai”, but when you’re genuinely busy that evening, take offence because “bhai ke liye time nahi hai?”. He’ll throw out varying versions of “Bhowwsadi kayy” to strangers daring to subvert him on the road, but will also touch the feet of that random uncle who gives him unsolicited advice in the metro. Or that girl who was born with a silver spoon and drove a Honda City while she was still an intern, bargaining at Janpath and Sarojini Nagar for a 100 bucks.
When you go for meetings, people aren’t ‘professional’ in the strictest sense. A lot of meetings here begin with a laid-back sounding “Aur kya haal hai?”, with an intent to actually listen. (S)he could come across as “warm”, or “intrusive”. It wouldn’t cut ice with you if you’re the “to-the-point”, “no-nonsense”, “I’m here to work, not get into a fucking relationship” types. I don’t claim to always enjoy it: when I’m there for work, I like getting right down to it too, but I miss it when I actually do enter the hard-coded professional environment of a few other cities.
But maybe that’s what Delhi is: more ‘grey’ than ‘black’ or ‘white’. Like, being ambitious and ruthless in the pursuit of victory, but never being too busy for a hearty lunch. Blowing kisses to your girlfriend, knowing fully well that the media will get after you. Loving unreasonably, as opposed to a “let’s be practical about this” approach. We wouldn’t have ever found a Virender Sehwag if being practical and ‘correct’ was in Delhi’s DNA. It’s a city that operates from the heart. And the heart, as we’ve learnt, is an idiot, which is why you see love, lust, pride, anger, gluttony in abundance. Always a sin or a virtue, nothing in between.
It’s hard to put a finger on Delhi and say ‘THIS defines it”. For now, I’m just glad we’ve found the one metaphor that does justice to all extremes of Delhi: that image of Virat Kohli reaching a milestone, leaping in the air and roaring that most Delhi of all words: “B-h-h-a-a-a-i-n-c-h-o-d-d”.