Thursday, October 08, 2009

Capital Commandments – For a World Class Delhi

The Delhi walla's pretension in writing makes me want to lodge a bullet in his balls - Blogger Nimpipi, the woodchuck chucks
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A Singaporean's hard talk with Delhiwallas.

[Text by Phebe Bay; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The author, studying at a university in Singapore, came to Delhi for a 5-month internship. During her stay, she was mistaken for a Nepalese, a Korean and a Japanese. One Delhiwalla felt compelled to tell her his theory of her small Chinese eyes - they were the result of atomic bombings in Hiroshima.

With Delhi preparing to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhi-wallas are preoccupied with the idea of it becoming a World Class City. For that to achieve they would have to change some aspects of their character.

You will not spit

In Singapore, spitting is limited to the older, uneducated population. I was shocked when I saw Delhi men in their twenties spitting here, there and everywhere. I had expected them to be suave since, I thought, that could be the only way to attract Indian women who are always as beautiful as Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai. Wouldn’t spitting be a total turn off?

Once while walking by a DTC bus, I was tempted to shield myself with an umbrella. Quite an endless stream of spit, empty water bottles and used bus tickets come out from those bus windows. Thankfully I had escaped unscathed.

Another time, while walking around the Jama Masjid area, I saw a man spitting out reddish-looking liquid. Three drops landed on my foot.

You will not pee wherever you fancy

While standing outside the Kashmere Gate metro station at 4am, I saw two men peeing right on its main gate. Looking closer, I noticed there were large pools of water (or was it something else?) glistering under the streetlights. Just then a breeze came by, fluttered my hair, but the beautiful moment was replaced by a urine-sort-of-stench. Do Delhi-wallas have no respect for the Metro that is serving them so well?

You will not honk

In Singapore, honking without a reason is considered rude. If it’s too difficult for Delhi-wallas to give up this practice, why not put melodious sounds into honks? That would be less annoying. In fact, some trucks along the Meharuli- Gurgaon expressway do have cute-sounding honks.

However, please don’t honk unless you need to.

You will smile

Delhi-wallas don’t smile. Everyone seems to be in a rush; nobody appears to care for others. But a smile goes a long way. In Khan Market, it was not the fancy bookstores or Subway sandwiches, but the smile of a cleaning-walli that made me happy. Next time when the security guard opens the showroom’s door for you, or the police-walla checks your bag at a Metro station's entrance, look into his or her eyes and smile. Everyone likes to be appreciated for what they do. :)

You will be courteous to all, regardless of gender or social rank

Once at a bank I saw a certain big-sized Mr Walla breaking a queue and coming in front of a lady, two heads shorter than him. It was her turn, yet Mr Walla uttered something to her in a fierce, loud voice and forced his way to the bank teller. The poor lady could do nothing.

Once at the DLF Emporio mall in Vasant Kunj, a certain Ms Walli was spotted in her branded sunglasses and Prada handbag. She jumped the queue at the security checkpoint and barged her way inside. When the security guard called her back, she shot her an annoyed, snobbish, Why-Are-You-Bothering-Me look. The Ms Walli might be decked up in World Class brands, but did she have a World Class attitude? I don’t think so.

You will respect women

I have enough of Delhi’s molester-wallas who like to take ‘advantage’ in crowded areas. Would they like it if such things were to happen to their mothers and sisters? A World Class City has to be a place where women can walk freely at night. And if you witness such acts, don’t let the perpetrator go free. Whack him with your handbag, or scream.

You will improve the infrastructure

This city needs smoother roads, cleaner toilets, better buses, and more garbage cans. Since bins are just a corner away in my country, I find it disturbing not being able to find one in Delhi. There are very few in public areas. Twice, against my conscience, I had to throw garbage on the ground.

You will bear the cost

To be World Class, you will have to give up even the lovely things about Delhi. When I was at Majnu Ka Tila and Chandni Chowk, I saw people hanging their clothes on the railings along the road, and on trees. This is certainly not permitted in a World Class City, but it looked so beautiful. It symbolized a way of life and also made the place so special.

But can you ever be World Class?

Delhi-wallas need not have towering skyscrapers. A World Class City is rather defined by the attitudes of its people, their acts of graciousness and consideration. In this urban sprawl of 13 million people, thrice the size of Singapore, it is not wise to rely entirely on the government. The people would have to make it happen.

Does Delhi have potential?

The city's charm is often swept away by the noise, the spitting and the dust. Yet, sometimes, suddenly, you chance upon a car-walla slowing down for you to cross the road, or you meet a chai-omelette walla who offers his lone pot-cover as a plate to have your sandwich on. More such people would turn Delhi from being a dusty, unsafe city with no manners to a World Class City. Good luck.

[The author wishes to clarify that the 'You will' tone of the piece was the idea of The Delhi Walla]

Click here to see the author walking around in Old Delhi.

The author

Capital Commandants – For a World Class Delhi


Ramit said...

Sure pretty lady, would do the best I can. Cheers!

miao said...

Well written author bay!!! Continue to explode and have fun!

Peter said...


Anonymous said...

Yes, it is the people that make the city, not the govt.. Good hygiene and cleanliness begin at home. If the people are organised at home, they are organised outside.

Anonymous said...

Woah! that's some fierce talk, but good nonetheless :D


Anonymous said...

I LOVE your blog! I like Delhi but the one I was growing up in was something else altogether, I loved it. You brilliantly help me see the threads between the past and the present - Thanks.

By the way, I agree with Miao on everything. I do not know why in the entire world only Indian men have such a strong urge to spit and pee in public places. You think its a genetic design issue? - Just kidding, but it could be a good research question for behavioral scientists out there.

Good luck with everything you choose to do!

Sonia A.

Abdusalaam al-Hindi said...

This post reminds me of a line from Sudhir Kakar's book, The Indians.

He writes and I'm paraphrasing here:

Indians are a clean people who happen to live in a filthy country.



agnieszka tygrys said...

Indians, don't change!

Phebe said...

I have a question to all.

How do you feel about foreigners commenting on your country? Are they entitled to do so?

Abdusalaam al-Hindi said...

@Phebe: Foreigners can comment on India and I feel nobody would have a problem as long as that criticism or critique is sincere and not out of prejudice. In fact some, like me, welcome it.

However, to answer your other question, No I don't think foreigners can critique with a sense of entitlement. Only Indians have that right, like others do of their own country.


ajay said...


yes, every one can comment and Indians welcome the comments with sincere intentions.

Now, we all need to analyze these sincere comments and change

i think the reason Indian men pee on the streets is lack of Toilets (either they are not there or they are not clean)

but that is still no excuse, we neeed to change

Mayank Austen Soofi said...

One has full right to criticise or admire. No city, culture, religion, novel is the private property of any individual or group.

phebethebay said...

I agree with Ajay about the part of sincere intentions.

When I was asked to write this piece, some questions came to my mind.

Is it fair to impose my Singaporean view on the city? After all, I have only been here for a short while. Would it be unfair for me to judge?

I guess this differs from person to person. Some may be more protective of their city/ country, others more welcoming of ideas and comments.

Personally, I think it would be good to have a fresh outsider perspective. Sometimes, as we hurry along with our lives, we tend to forget our “bad habits” until someone points them out.

After all, nothing amuses me more than a foreigner’s honest opinion of my country. Sometimes, the harsher, the better. :)

ajay said...


You have a good point - fresh eye review.

People get desensitized with their environment and a person who is not (yet) desensitized can bring good points

eventually, we (the desensitized ones) need to acknowledge and make adjustments in our habits

and i know we can do it, delhi Wallas who move to other countries overcome these habits in no time

or, we can always send all Delhi Wallas to Singapore for a day crash course - i volunteer my services
no excuse


phebe said...

I think the crash course in Singapore might leave some Delhi-wallas feeling very disturbed.

Spitting: Fine + Dirty Looks From Others

Littering: Fine

Pee-ing – In – Improper Places: A Trip to the Police Station + Fine

Not-Obeying-Traffic-Rules: Heavy Fine + Demerit Points

Crossing the Road at Wrong Places: Fine (RS1,500) (if you get caught)


And mayank, about the full right to criticize and admire, should it come with the need for some responsibility as well?


ajay said...

Sending Delhi Wallas to Singapore for a crash course was a joke but we can try implementing and enforcing some of the Singaporean regulations - let Delhi be the Pilot city in India.

The problem with enforcement is the corruption - Delhi Police gets low salary and it is difficult to raise a family in the meagre salary (does pay commision consider that since they have access to corrupt money they do not need to get paid adequately)


Do you think that Singapore regulations are too tough at times - a question with good intentions and no malice


Anonymous said...

All that 'Fine, Fine, Fine' is bound to be read as 'Okay, Okay, Fine' - especially by the spitting peeing kind of Delhi wallahs. You ignore the rules of grammar at your own peril.

phebe said...

I am not sure what you are saying Anonymous. The grammar sounds perfectly fine to me.

Well, in my opinion, Singapore has tough rules and regulations. To some extent, we have achieved our reputation as a world-class city because of them.

It is my only hope that as our society progress and people become more educated, they would choose to engage in civic-minded actions not because of regulation, but because it is the only right thing to do.

Free Poker Capital said...

Nobody care for others .... this is sad true and will be for long long time :(

p.s. To Author : Hey girl , owiesly you are more beautifull than Aishwarya Rai.

Chotta Betaal said...

Phebe Dear ...

Thanks for ur esteemed interest in delhi.

Having been both ... delhi/sing. ...
I'm ... born & raised in the west ... Thnks for ur interest ... delhi is my interst too ...

delhi is very much sing. wannabe ... & if it ever does ... it will beat sing. hands down ... delhi is so pretty ... so classy ... i suppose calcutta ... or wotever they calling her .. same-same ...

if anybody can fix delhi-calcutta-madras etc. .. Phebe ... it's Singaporeans ... really ... With all due respect ... Sing. done better than colonial Ind ...

binu said...

i love this article.yes,people should be responsible to make city clean and in good hygiene.'In world class city women can walk freely'this sentence is fantastic.when i was in delhi about a year ago ,most of the indian channels and newspapers were filled with acid throwing incidents,mysterious man threw accident on innocent woman.According to media, several women bacame victim of acid incidents in a week.

Anonymous said...

In the US, they kiss in public.
In India, they piss in public.


Anonymous said...

Truth be told, in Singapore, people don't smile on the street, are rude, always in a rush, and are snobbish regardless of social rank. I wish Delhi the best in its stride towards being World Class... just not necessarily want to turn it into another Singapore.

-- A Singaporean in Delhi.

Tarun said...

I am a Delhi walla settled in Singapore since last 5 years who understand both Singaore and Delhi very well. Please allow me to contribute one more commandment that Phebe Bay forgot to mention.

They shall be image conscious - Whether you actually become world class city or not, pretend to be world class. Like Singapore, control media; publish local good news, and publish the worst news possible of other countries. This creates feel good factor in local population that they are world class and world media will fail to find any local bad news. For Instance - Unprovoked, Singapore media loves to bash India. In last 5 years, I have never seen a single good news about India. They always publish worst possible news and images of India.

Singapore proclaims to be good friend of India but in media they abuse India like anything. As a true Indian, it's painfull to see this attitude of Singapore, a nation of insecure people.

Phebe, can you explain why Singapore media always projects India in the worst possible way???

Thanks Phebe Bay for educating Delhiwallas. Perhaps Phebe can now muster courage and risk educating her own countrymen and media.

What Delhiwallas and India needs is not advise from outsiders but a heavy dose in self-confidence. We Indians, despite our rich history lack self-belief and desperately try to ape outsiders. Be nice, be yourself, dig deeper into the glorious history that is badly suppressed by 10 centuries of slavery. Go discover yourself.