On a road just east of Colorado’s Comanche National Grassland (which is as beautiful and as dull as you’d imagine), a small green sign announced to Jenny and I that we were back in Delhi.
A few hundred feet down the road was the exact same sign, facing the other direction. It informed our mirrors that, even before we finished braking, we’d already exited Delhi.
Back in India, it once took our chartered bus four hours to travel from Gurgaon in the south to Delhi’s border in the north. Colorado Delhi’s transit time was slightly more than three seconds.
So we turned the car around and returned to the Western edge of this new Delhi. And as we balanced our camera on the car to document our visit, our eyes landed upon a granite monument in the weeds. Its faded inscription offered few details beyond the vague promise that, some time in the past century, Colorado’s Delhi was a bit more lively than it seemed today.
Once our visit was duly immortalized, we ventured back into city limits. No Hauz Khas, no Saravana Bhawan, no Red Fort in this Delhi — just a boarded-up general store with a detached outhouse that speaks to the building’s age.
Behind the house, the requisite detritus of rural America: skeletons of cars, piles of wood, a fence that may have once enclosed livestock. Not a soul to be seen.
Not that we went to investigate. This is rural America, and it’s written in the Constitution that the moment you step onto private property, a man in red flannel long-johns must appear to spit and holler and shoot a shotgun into the air. We contented ourselves with admiring the faded Pepsi billboard on the side of the store from the safe side of the property line.
The paint is bleached, the windows are plywood, the lot is overgrown. But there is history here: some time in the past, this Delhi had traffic. People stretched their legs, admired the monument, and presumably bought Pepsi, although not enough to keep the store in business. And then, thus fortified with enough sugar to survive the coming federal grasslands, the bottles were tossed in the weeds, the kids were coaxed back into the cars, the Studebaker kicked up dust, and Delhi was forgotten.
Feb 25 update! As you can read in the comments below, a reader named Magnezzeron discovered that Delhi, Colorado was featured in 1973 in Terrence Malick’s Badlands — back before the town had been abandoned. Watch this clip to see what the Pepsi mural looked like when it was fresh painted, what that brick structure was originally intended for, and what 40 years of sun and neglect can do to a building. Thanks, Magnezzeron!