In Delhi, everything has more than one function. Or as the saying goes in Hindi, “Delhi me, sab kuch milta hai” (in Delhi, everything is possible/available). It was in experiencing of the urban landscape of northern India that the idea of the rhizome first made sense to me: considering the city as a living, open plurality rather than, let’s say, as static closed system. Simply moving along the manifold flows of people in a place like the Metro station Rajiv Chowk, New Delhi is nothing short of subliminal in relation to a standard model of perceiving urban infrastructure. Systems like the Delhi metro and it’s seemingly infinite capacity to swallow the citizens of the Indian capital simply does not make sense viewed as a neatly, centralized or isolated structure. Each metro station in Delhi, with the myriad of connections to trains, rickshaws, taxis and even the rare site of the sidewalk, is more like a nodal point on an ever-growing network than individual member of the societal body. Once more, everything has more than one function in Delhi.
As my body learnt how to behave and maneuver in this landscape, the concept of the rhizome came to life as a way to function, to think. Guattari and Deleuze’s infamous concept is much more than an abstract critique of Plato or Thomas Aquinas’ “analogy of being.” G&D used the weed-image “rhizome” and developed the possibility of becoming-grass that beautifully unfolds and untangles the process of body-movement in crowded urban environments, such as Delhi. Delhi is messy, as is urban-travelling in Delhi. The concept of thinking-like-grass alleviates some of the inevitable built of frustration a northern European, such as myself, might feel when transformed into a more or less anonymous member of a enormous flow of bodies moving in the grid of the Delhi metro.
Moreover, the flow of bodies in the Metro cannot be isolated to the Metro and thinking-like-grass leads to appreciate things like the many dhaba’s (or road-side-eateries) that are scattered here and there along the exits and entry points to the Metro. In a word, things make more sense to a blade of grass than to a claustrophobic Scandinavian when traveling the yellow-line from Rajiv Chowk to Huda Center.
Reality is more like Delhi than a small Scandinavian Hamlet, more like grass than trees. Sure, Delhi can be a bit of an assault on the senses, but the same is of course of the chaosmos we call the universe. Like the Metro in Delhi, everything has more than one function. This insight, also known as the rhizome or thinking-like-grass, has the potential to change everything.