From Jerusalem to Delhi

[Delhi Diaries. June 2013.]

I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport to find a surly security guard waiting by the entrance. He asked me a couple of questions that lead up to, “Did you ever travel to the West Bank?” “Yes,” I replied; it’s not illegal, after all. But that inevitably lead to further questions. I was finally allowed to pass through, and I raced through the bustling airport to catch my flight to New Delhi. I was going to visit family for two weeks.

On my first day in Delhi, my brother and I headed to the cinema to catch a mid-afternoon movie. Afterwards, we weaved through the vibrant crowds of Connaught Place: people rushing to the metros after a hard day’s work, tourists walking about with beaded hair and backpacks-in-tow, vendors sitting on the floors peddling colourful knick-knacks to passers-by, an old man playing his flute on the corner of the street. We sat on the rooftop of the Indian Coffee House, while monkeys hung out on the trees encompassing the building.

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Satisfied with our evening coffees, we hopped onto the Delhi metro to head back home, my brother in the general compartment and I in the women’s. Things like these – the fact that we have a separate women’s compartment in the first place – seem glaringly ridiculous especially in light of having returned from a city where men and women can co-inhabit a crowded train without going berserk.

A couple of days later, I headed to a friend’s place to spend time with old colleagues from work. There was good chatter, good pizza and crappy Kingfisher beer.

I found myself engulfed in a discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with my friend’s roommate. She was vehemently anti-Israel, and I suppose I understood, because that’s how I used to feel before I moved to Jerusalem.

Sigh. All of this side-taking. What side am I on? I am against the illegal Israeli occupation in the West Bank. I am also against those who choose to kill innocent people as a response to it. I am against the relentless abuse of power and human rights violations committed by the Israeli state. I am frustrated with the inefficiency of the Palestinian Authority in doing a decent job for their people.

It disturbs me when I hear some Palestinians praise Hitler, and it disturbs me when I hear some Israelis declare that Palestine is a lie and that neither its history nor its people exist (“they’re Jordanians”). I am tired of phrases like “peace process” being thrown about in such a hypocritical, self-serving manner. But what is truly most disheartening, in any conflict, is the ability we seem to possess to effectively dehumanize “the other”.

We moved on to other topics eventually, like newfound loves, broken engagements, quarter life crises. Until the beer ran out.

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