Lahe Lahe Land and the Art of Laziness


Lahe Lahe Land and the Art of Laziness

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza / Arré

Imagine a wire. If a current flows through it, the current can be slowed down or controlled with the help of a resistor. That’s physics. Now imagine Delhi. There is no way you can control the speed of people walking in Delhi. It’s almost like people here are wired to move at the same speed. They only accelerate, never retract. That’s physics too. Only, Delhi is a superconductor. It knows no resistance.

So the moment you hear someone screaming “Schqccwueez me” in a paralysed British accent, disappear. That’s your warning sign. If your idea of walking is dawdling on a promenade, you’ve landed yourself in a place that will – and you must believe me when I say it – elbow you to death. It will pound you until you find yourself churning in the middle of the road with elbows that work swifter than the blades of a food processor at max speed.

When I first came to Delhi from the Land of “lahe lahe” aka Assam, I did not know how to walk fast. People in Assam believe in lingering. Not only lingering, at times, we stay put in a place for hours and we don’t even realise it. Time is fictional for us, like it should be. We believe in slothful, listless days. Even months. Safe to say, years.

Lahe lahe, which means, slowly slowly, is a specialised affair. It is an attitude, a collective feeling back at home. It’s a way of life. After having a sizeable meal, people in the beautiful Land of Lahe Lahe, draw their curtains and sleep. This is compulsory. There’s nothing you can do to replace your afternoon naps and if you don’t sleep in the afternoons, it’s time to be worried.

Post-afternoon activities include waking up lahe lahe, going to work lahe lahe, coming back lahe lahe, eating lahe lahe, and passing time lahe lahe, before the day concludes. I spent half my life living lahe lahe. Delhi, as you can imagine, was a YouTube video I had to understand at 10728378x speed.

All these fast and furious things don’t happen back in Assam. Overtake our cars, our cycles, our lives, or us in entirety, we will still stick by lahe lahe.

If you walk at the speed of a Delhiite in Assam, people will probably think you’re an alien, or a robot devised to walk at that speed, or plain crazy. They will still not do anything about it. No one does anything about anything there. Just like an American teenager glued to a TV, they can’t care less.

I will take the pain to elucidate the difference between Assam and Delhi. Overtaking a car in Delhi is akin to announcing an open invitation for a car race. At the drop of a hat, there will be at least 30 cars scurrying out of absolutely nowhere, as if they are playing Road Rash. All these fast and furious things don’t happen back in Assam. Overtake our cars, our cycles, our lives, or us in entirety, we will still stick by lahe lahe.

The moment I landed in Delhi, I realised I’d invited my doom. You don’t get a second chance here. Either you get with the speed or you let the elbows beat the bejesus out of you. Like a car gains momentum as a road dips, over a period of some seven-odd years, I gained momentum too. I could walk like light, and I even became comfortable with it.

Everything was fine, until escalators cropped up in the city. Delhi still ran, but Delhi stopped at the escalators. When you strategically whizz and battle your way out of the metro halting at Rajiv Chowk, you don’t move at a speed where you can afford to stop at escalators. It’s almost as if the nuclear chain had controllers now and I taught myself to be an atom that knows no resistance.

“Move people, move.”

My mind still screams every time I get stuck on an escalator where people decide to rest themselves like statues. Statues with bags, statues without bags, statues holding hands, statues staring at the open end of the escalator, statues prettying themselves up before they get moving again, statues turning back, and statues staring at just anything.

But I don’t know how to slow down anymore. I need to move like a mad food processor, thanks to the coaching Delhi offered me. Just like the universe is always expanding and entropy is always on the rise, just like a suddenly contracting universe and decreasing entropy will baffle us all, escalators in Delhi bewilder me.

I want to conclude this with something striking and profound that will stay with my readers for a long, long time. But I am not aiming for perfection. I like the rambling style that comes to me naturally. There are conversations, that may or may not lead somewhere.

So long, elbows.