Saturday, June 21, 2008

Special - Crass is the City

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Showing off

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit calls Delhi the "most crass and show-offish city of the current times".

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It's out, straight out from the horse's mouth. Delhi's Chief Minister Ms. Sheila Dikshit has declared Delhi - that mishmash of elbows and impatience - to be the "most crass and show-offish city of the current times".

Quite true. People here pee on walls, jump the queues, skip the red lights, grope the girls, spit the gutkha, ghoos the cops, shove the sifarish, and dikhao Blackbery. Everyone screams out their lungs to announce their unprintable plans for everyone's mothers and sisters.

Anything that can go wrong does in this city. Fully-functional traffic lights lead to hour-long jams, delayed appointments, cancelled deals, angry bosses, relationship break-ups, hypertension, mood disorders, and occasionaly all of it ends in a severely upset tummy, known as Delhi Belly.

Two years ago, a Dutch diplomat stationed in the city got so frustrated that he crossed all diplomatic boundaries and called Delhi "filthy" where "everyone interferes with everyone else; the people are a darn nuisance". Ouch!

"New wealth tends to be universally brash," says Mr. Pavan K. Varma, author of The Great Indian Middle Class. "In the new hierarchical and prescritive society of India, the mere having of wealth is not important unless you can display it because that display is linked to your ability to polevault those societal prescription", he says.

Perhaps that's why buying a Ford becomes necessary, not only to make the commuting comfortable but also to satiate the desire that neighbours too should see it. Mr. Varma, however, cautions that Delhi is not markedly different from other metropoliotan cities except that it is witnessing a great concentration of wealth in a short span of time. Hence the greed and the showing-off. Even Jantar Mantar's hunger strikes have a snob-and-show value ("What, Nafisa Ali did not come?").

Nothing really happens in Delhi if it does not happen in your face.

Film maker Mr. Muzaffar Ali has blamed...ahem, films, as one of the reasons for Delhi's growing crassiness. "Children are being influenced by loud films where there is lot of violence and speeding cars," he says. "Then there are the new settlers who don't understand the fabric of the city."

Does no one loves this poor little rich metropolis of ours? "Folks are working hard, making money and flaunting the wealth. What's wrong with that? ", says model Ms. Indrani Dasgupta. "Delhi is a great city."


Sakshi Bahal Sahni said...

It’s very true… Delhi is becoming scary day by day. I dare to say that no one has emotions, sense of responsibility to maintain our city in a better way. We have more concerned about earning money. That’s why we are careless about the whole matter. One should not forget that to gain something we have to pay something as well.

Garam Beni said...

Pata nehi yaar, but I like this place. My family's been here since 1889 and the only change, old timers tell me, is that Delhi has gone from being a big village with ambitions of becoming a city to becoming a big city thats not quite out of the big village mould yet. Sure we're crass and everything else that we're accused of, but there's this something..that makes you want to cling to Delhi, and its way of life. Not very articulate I know, but I wouldnt feel at home anywhere else. To me, Delhi is a giant houselhold, with quarreling relatives and squabbling bahus, and strange neighbors, all of whom you loathe with your very soul, but the kitchen of the house is heavenly, and there are a couple of cousins you can sit and talk with too.

sunny Taranto Wala said...

I have also lived in new Delhi for some time, but mostly as a tourist. I went to see different places in and near New Delhi. I want to say that the overall experience is nice as long as you ignore things. It is India and one cannot expect the same service or I would say anything like America. Even the railways tracks are better in America. You go to Delhi railway stations and you will see the difference. There are unlimited things to talk about but, related to this topic, I would like to say that Delhi has changed a lot. It's way more expensive and one can get anything they want. I have noticed that although Delhi wala people have tons of money but still they are Indians. They have AC but no power, like that so many things. People get good salary but no service. You have good computer but the internet is poor. You have good expensive car but the roads are not good. So I figured out that although Indian is developing but the inflation is very high in India and overall it's not wroth to live.

Anonymous said...

Despite the filth and the people of this city (read filth and filth), I wouldn't live anywhere else in India. Maybe it's the djinns, but Delhi has a certain je ne sais quoi to it.

Anonymous said...

What's happening to Delhi is only natural, when migrants start to outnumber the locals - the character of the dwelling and its fabric is bound to be stressed and sometimes torn.

I've seen huge changes in the city, as a third grader I used to stand on the ring-road at Nizamuddin (next to IS Goel Bus Co.) with my brother and to while away the wait for the school bus, we used to count cars on either side of the road and it was never a problem as the hour was still early, and Delhi then, only had a few cars.

Nizamuddin used to have a nice middle class feel to it, which I don't think is the case anymore, no matter how many bloggers bandy it about as that.

Those days the locality was fairly cosmopolitan, the Juneja's, Malik's, Talwars and Khan's lived in total harmony.

The 'L' park was the venue of several local gatherings organised by the youth in the locality and the park opposite 'G' block next to the nullah was like a summer haven with the Gulmohars in full bloom.

The Juneja's had a ping pong table placed in their verandah, and anybody looking for a few knocks could go there and play.

The first real change was a spate of crimes, the Sanjay and Geeta Chopra killings committed by the dreaded Ranga and Billa and the gruesome discovery of Gautam Jaisinghani's body on the outskirts of the city.

Jaisinghani was this cool, college going dude that lived across the street from my house in Nizamuddin (west), his mother was an elegant lady that liked to wear rouge, I saw Mrs. Jaisinghani's cheeks lose colour the day her son's body was discovered.

The incident continues to remain one of the few unsolved murder cases in the history of Delhi police and an indelible etch on my childhood memory.

Then came the intolerance and my own personal tragedies and by the time I managed to look society in the eye, the city had blinked.

The local bicycle lender – a Sardar called Jitta - was not the only one that drank in public, and it was hip to talk about money………the Jones’ moved up the financial ladder and me to boarding school.

On my visits to the city, I made it a point to visit Nizamuddin, the table in the Juneja’s house was not to be seen, Prakash – the local grocer - not as friendly, the Sachdeva store run by two kurta pajama clad brothers was divided into two, one was called Balwant – the other I did not care to notice.

In retrospect, I believe that was when Delhi lost its virginity, making way for the throngs of people that impregnated it with other ideas and desires.

As the seat of power for centuries, Delhi is a bitch, accommodating only those that are willing to pay the price she demands and like a graceful nautch girl she has, and history is witness, turned away those that failed to meet her demands.

She enslaves her most ardent suitors and possesses them - like me – with hopes of that elusive - one more chance.

Anonymous said...

Everyone screams out their lungs to announce their unprintable plans for everyone's mothers and sisters.

I couldnt help but roar with laughter at this sentence. This is so true - a hardcore dilliwala, born, brought and lived here for 23 yrs