Tag Archive for 'Delhi'

Political revolution? Nah, no change in self-righteous Delhi

Anup Kutty in The Times of India:

It was the turn of the century . I was living with my then-girlfriend in a pokey two-room apartment in Khirki Extension. These were new builder flats (or studio apartments as they called them) that had come up after knocking down the shanties that once formed the neighbourhood. The doors came with click locks, the bathrooms had bidets, kitchens merged into living rooms and windows opened into dark shafts where pigeons mated endlessly. We were fresh out of college. She had found a job with a hot new business channel, I was unemployed . She paid the rent and I made dinner plans. The landlord believed we were married — a lie supported by her liberal parents whenever they came to town to meet her. In the evenings, our friends would come over to listen to music or watch TV. They would grab a beer from the fridge and joke about relationships and careers like they did in Friends — an American TV show that featured youngsters sharing apartments and living a bohemian urban lifestyle . Secretly, we pretended there wasn’t much difference between us and them. Except they lived in Manhattan while we had found our little joys in Khirki Village.

On a similar evening, we found a drunk neighbour banging on our door. A passing car had bumped into his and he was sure it belonged to one of our friends. He stood outside our house and yelled for us to come out and confront him. By the time we did, he had collected more people from the neighbourhood. As we tried to pacify him, someone screamed “We know what you all do in this house.” “Ye to r*** i hai (She’s a prostitute ),” said another. “We don’t want prostitutes and drug addicts in this neighbourhood.” The voices grew louder. More:

Old Delhi Motorcycles: The film

Watch this if you have a Bullet, or have ever dreamed of possessing one…

World’s worst cities for air pollution

According to WHO [Click on the image}

 air-pollution-by-city

The moving story behind Delhi’s Yodakin bookstore

As told by its founder Arpita Das:

In September 2009 I sent out a mail to the entire Yoda Press mailing list saying I had taken a 400 sqft space on rent in Hauz Khas Village, where we would soon be opening an alternative indie bookstore which hoped to become a platform for titles by independent publishers. The aftermath of sending out that mail was the first indication I had of the popularity YODAKIN would come to enjoy in the future. Six people I did not know ‘forwarded’ my email to me.

But unbeknownst to me at the time, a ghastly personal ordeal lay in our path first. My then 4-year-old daughter Amalia had a terrible accident in October that year even as we were getting ready to start doing up the interiors of the future YODAKIN bookstore. She suffered second-degree burns all over her abdomen and thighs from an errant diya catching her ghagra on Diwali night. Full recovery would ultimately take eight excruciating months, during four of which she could not walk.

However, the rent deposit had been paid towards the store space, and I had flogged jewellery, and got the family to invest the balance capital amount—-we were advised that delaying the opening of the store would hurt me terribly professionally. I remember my husband Freddie, who was helping me set up the space, spending the day at the store supervising the workers, and the night in the hellish burns ward at Safdarjung hospital by his daughter’s bedside, even as I went home to be back at the hospital at the crack of dawn. More:

(If you want to contribute monetarily to YODAKIN to help us effectively transition to the new space, please write to friendsofyodakin@gmail.com)

Delhi (1938)

Shot by the legendary Jack Cardiff – the Oscar-winning cinematographer of ‘Black Narcissus’ – this is one of a number of short films that he made in India in the late 1930s.

Delhi, monster metropolis

William Dalrymple in Newsweek:

As the city has expanded it has swallowed up hundreds of ancient villages, where people’s lives and attitudes have changed little since the Mughal Middle Ages. It is the cheek-by-jowl coexistence of a deeply conservative patriarchal rural society alongside the very different world and moral norms of a modern urban city that has helped create the tensions that resulted in the recent tragedy.

These enveloped villages can be sad places. There are two near my house: Shahpur Jat and Khirki, both of which have been swallowed alive. Shorn of their fields and exploited by corrupt bureaucrats and unscrupulous real-estate agents, the villagers now find themselves besieged. Shahpur Jat has undergone a “boutiquification,” and its ponds full of leathery water buffaloes are now bizarrely edged with designer shops—which are visited by women in short skirts, high heels, and Dior sunglasses—while the villagers remain deprived of even the most basic facilities.

Yet these villages, with their old courtyard houses and ancient ­ruins, are one of the reasons I love this city as much as I do. Of the great cities of the world, only Rome and Cairo can even begin to rival Delhi for the sheer volume and density of his­toric remains. More

A mother’s story of the teenager involved in gang-rape

“To India he’s a monster, the juvenile who committed a horrific crime. But to his mother he’s still Bhura, the boy she was forced to abandon at 11 years old.” Andrew Buncombe in The Independent:

His mother lies shrunken and despairing, shrouded in blankets on a straw mattress. For her, the young man who went by the nick-name “Bhura”, or “brown”, was her first-born joy, a flash of happiness in a hard-edged world until she was forced to send him away to work in Delhi at the age of 11. For several years afterwards she had no idea he was alive or dead.

But to the world, gripped by the recent rape and murder of a Delhi student, the 17-year-old bus attendant from Uttar Pradesh represents little less than the essence of evil. In briefings to the media, police have suggested this teenager was among the most savage of the six attackers, luring the student and her male companion aboard a bus with his “sing-song” call before twice raping her and internally assaulting her with an iron bar.

Indeed, his alleged viciousness was so bad that the family of the murdered student has said he ought not to be treated as a juvenile as demanded by law, but, if convicted, should instead face the death penalty. “He is well aware of what is right and wrong,” the student’s brother told reporters. More:

The Hindu’s fight against rape

and here’s the link to Part 2

Why I am culpable

the-telegraph

Sujan Dutta from New Delhi in The Telegraph:

I learnt at the barricades today that the personal is the political. So I am culpable. Culpable of the gang rape and murder of a co-citizen.

 I am culpable because I am a man. Because I have encouraged lewd jokes, sexist jibes and dirty talk about women.

 I am culpable because I don’t dare to stop the flurry of bad language around me every day, in almost every gathering, that have to do with genitalia, of wanting to do this to someone’s mother or someone’s sister, knowing fully well that it is not for the motherhood or the sisterhood but in the full knowledge that whoever she is, she must be a woman.

So I will say today from the police barricades of New Delhi and from among the tens of hundreds who walked on, sat on and slept on the roads and sidewalks of Jantar Mantar, that I am culpable of nurturing the environment and climate in which such torment can be inflicted on a girl.

I am culpable because as a student in Calcutta’s Jadavpur University, I once cracked a lewd joke on an eccentric teacher who was so deeply engaged in scholarship that she did not care what she wore and how she looked.

I am culpable because I have shouted at my mother during quarrels, more than once: “Why are Bengali women so difficult?”

I am culpable because I have girlfriends who have taken abuse in male company that I could not strike out against not only because I was scared but also because I thought it was the done thing to meld into the environment. More:

In memory of the unknown citizen: Shuddhabrata Sengupta in The Hindu:

We may never know her name. But not every memory needs a name or a pile of stone. Her memorial need not claim space on a city street, or square, or on the river-front. Let the well-known Leader and the Unknown Soldier have their real estate, but for the Unknown Citizen, let us not fire gun salutes, fly flags at half-mast or build portals and pedestals. And let us not for even a moment imagine that instituting police measures against the people the Prime Minister calls ‘foot-loose migrants’ will mean anything remotely resembling justice.

We can think about what the contours of enduring justice can be without being hangmen. Only safe cities, safe towns and safe villages, and freedom for all men and women will mean justice. Justice does not come from the gallows. It springs from a freedom from fear, and the gallows only perpetuate fear. Hangmen will turn the bullies who rape into the cowards who will automatically murder so that there may not be a trace of their rape. It will make fathers who rape their daughters into fathers who rape and murder their daughters. Capital punishment will lead to less, not more convictions for rape and heinous sexual violence. That can never lead us to justice. More:

No turning back now: The Hindu carried a front page editorial:

If anything, the past week has shown how so many of the framers and implementers of the law in India are themselves complicit in the very culture of patriarchy that produces, sanctions and makes excuses for violence against women. Their complicity lies not just in the foul statements we have heard but in the silences and compromises of senior politicians and officials who have presided over the multiple organ failure of the Indian state, a failure which denies security and justice to women across the country.

For anonymousNilanjana Roy on her blog:

I did not know the name of the girl in the bus, through these last few days. She had a name of her own–it was not Amanat, Damini or Nirbhaya, names the media gratuitously gave her, as though after the rape, she had been issued a new identity. I don’t need to know her name now, especially if her family doesn’t want to share their lives and their grief with us. I think of all the other anonymous women whose stories don’t make it to the front pages, when I think of this woman; I think of the courage that is forced on them, the way their lives are warped in a different direction from the one they had meant to take. Don’t tell me her name; I don’t need to know it, to cry for her.

Dear Abhijit babu: The Society of Painted and Dented Ladies responds: Rajyasree Sen in Firstpost:

I am writing to you in my capacity of General Secretary of the Society of Painted and Dented Ladies of India. First of all, I would like to state that I was most touched that you have noticed our presence in your midst. For long, we the Painted and Dented Ladies have suffered on the fringes of society, waiting to be recognised – especially by the likes of political luminaries such as you. This honour from a sitting MP, has given me inestimable joy. Not to forget that you are our venerable president, Pranab Mukherjee’s very own son. I stand up in respect, sir.

Protests over rape case: in pictures

A 23-year-old woman was attacked by six men on a moving bus and brutalized for 45 minutes in Delhi. Protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the growing incidence of rape, and slow and ineffective prosecution.

protest

In this photograph in The Telegraph by Prem Singh, a police officer and a woman protester show each other injuries suffered during the violence in New Delhi.

Click here to see photographs

Why the protests sadden me

Manini Chatterjee in The Telegraph:

Delhi is a difficult city, as harsh and extreme as its weather. It is a city where the most powerful and the most wretched both reside, and in between the two extremes lies a vast, swirling middle class to which I and the protesters laying siege at India Gate belong.

It is our class that defines this city — we can be kind sometimes, but we are mostly callous; we can reach out to others on occasion, but are usually selfish; we witness injustice every day but indifference is our default mode.

But the horrific gang rape of a young woman and the brutal violence inflicted on her and her friend last Sunday night was too much for even this city to take. It triggered something elemental in us, and brought to the fore all the simmering fear and anger, the frustration and helplessness, the sense of isolation and the desire for solidarity that flows subliminally and continually just below the surface of this gargantuan and complex metropolis.

It is only natural, therefore, that the unspeakable brutality of this incident — which took place in south Delhi and not in some nameless slum and to a young couple who were returning home after watching an English movie in a multiplex and not to some villagers in Uttar Pradesh or Haryana — sparked profound outrage among the middle class, and brought the city’s well-heeled onto the streets. More:

Delhi gang-rape victim narrates the tale of horror

New Delhi police fire water cannon at rape protest

In The Hindu:

The victim purportedly told the SDM that around 9.30 p.m. while she and her friend were standing at a bus stop at Munirka, they were called into the bus by the juvenile accused Rahul (name changed), who told them that the bus would go towards Palam. On entering the vehicle, the victims found that in all there were six others besides them in the vehicle.

A few minutes into the ride, her friend got suspicious as the bus had deviated from the supposed route and the other occupants had shut the door. When he objected, the six accused taunted them, asking what they were doing together so late in the night.

A scuffle then ensued between the software engineer and others. The 28-year-old was hit on the head by Ram Singh. The woman was then dragged to the rear end of the vehicle by Rahul and Akshay Singh.

In her statement, the woman said that after hitting her friend, who fell unconscious, Ram Singh went to the back of the bus and was the first to force himself on her. It is learnt that the girl had heard some names while the attackers were calling out to each other. More and here

Dilli – a beautiful documentary

‘Dilli’ is a multiple-award winning documentary that has played in over 70 international film festivals across North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Directed by: Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh

A girl named Suu

Malavika Karlekar remembers ‘The Lady’ she knew. In Outlook:

When a childhood friend is the face of a movement for democracy in a country ruled by a junta, time can only partially dim, not ever erase, one’s memories of her. Among other things, I remember Aung San Suu Kyi’s ready wit. Some years ago, I chanced upon a picture postcard from her marked “Oxford, 1979”. “Doesn’t the gargoyle on the New College bell tower look like Mr X?” she’d asked, referring to an Economics don, her tutor who’d been quite taken by her Oriental charm. I could almost hear her giggle; she saw humour in things we found quotidian. The quality surely emboldened her in the dark years.

As schoolgirls at Delhi’s Convent of Jesus and Mary in the last years of the Nehruvian era, we were ingenues, sheltered from the real world. Suu’s mother, the gracious Daw Khin Kyi (Madame Aung San), Burma’s ambassador to India at the time, would brook no indiscipline. Sloppiness or slouching was out. For habitual loungers to whom divans with bolsters signified ultimate bliss, Suu’s upright posture was a constant reminder of how young ladies should conduct themselves. Of course, the strict regimen of a convent with its insistence on well-starched divided skirts (what if ordinary skirts billowed in the wind?) just that one inch above the knees, Angelus at noon and learning by rote only reinforced familial values of discipline and order. More:

Susheela Raman — Daga Daga

At Blue Frog in Delhi. The gig I missed.

Delhi’s food revolution: pizza with a caviar topping for £120 (about Rs 10,000)

Jason Burke in The Guardian:

Nair has created a pizza with a caviar topping costing £120 – named The High Life – specifically to appeal to customers more interested in conspicuous consumption than gastronomy. It has, she said, sold very well.

The Leela bar serves a spirit known as “the black pearl”, which is priced at 125,000 rupees (£1,600) a shot. The hotel has so far sold seven, of which four were drunk by the entourage of “an African king”. Cristal champagne is more popular.

The publicity for one New Delhi restaurant scheduled to open this year promises a fresh interpretation of traditional Indian ingredients by half a dozen three-Michelin-starred chefs.

A meal for two will cost about £1,000 including wine, heavy local taxes and a limousine to take diners home – making it the most expensive Indian restaurant in the world.

With Indian diners having only recently developed a taste for cuisines from around the world, some customisation of menus is often necessary. More:

The most expensive city in India?

Delhi not Mumbai is the country’s most expensive city according to Mercer’s annual survey of 214 cities around the world. What makes Delhi so expensive? Transportation, food, entertainment and price of housing. Incidentally, both Delhi and Mumbai are more expensive to live in than Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Now if only we were earning in dollars! Margherita Stancati in WSJ’s India Realtime.

Despite popular perceptions, Delhi is a lot more expensive than Mumbai, according to a survey comparing the cost of living in cities around the world. The annual survey, conducted by the consulting firm Mercer, ranked 214 cities around the world on the basis of the cost of living in them. more

Read survey report here.

Delhi “Slut Walk” renamed “Besharmi Morcha” (Shameless Front)

“Not all people in Delhi will understand the meaning of ‘slut’. So after a lot of debate and discussion, we have finally zeroed in on ‘Besharmi Morcha’ (Shameless Front), said Umang Sabarwal, one of the chief organisers. More here.

‘Look at me, I’m not asking for it,’ says teen behind Delhi’s Slut Walk

Nandita Sengupta in The Times of India:

At first sight, Umang Sabharwal, all of 19 and very vivacious, is hardly the person you’d expect to be behind the provocatively-termed ‘Slutwalk artharth Besharmi Morcha’, a yet-to-be-held event that has triggered clashes online and at the dining table, making both feminist and family-person squirm.

The almost-into-third year journalism student has unknowingly teased a very raw nerve in both mainstream society and feminist dialogue: what girls/women should wear. It all started with Sabharwal inviting discussion on her Facebook page post a ‘Slutwalk’ event in Toronto, organised in April this year after a police officer riled university students by commenting that girls who were dressed like ‘sluts’ invited sexual assault. Men and women marched in protest wearing revealing clothes to bring home the point that wearing ‘sexy’ clothes cannot be construed as sexual incitation. She referred to it, convinced that Delhi, known across the world as a city unsafe for women, needed its own version of a similar campaign. The response, as they say, is history.

The idea behind the event, likely to be held at the fag-end of July is, in her words, “to point to the tendency to avoid facing the issue of sexual violence”. She points out that talk of the event itself has sparked arguments in homes across the country. “This is not about your parents or my parents or family. They tell you ‘don’t wear this, don’t go there,’ to try to protect you. Valid concerns but the message is, ‘protect yourself’. But this is acceptance of sexual violence. It gives men leeway. Give girls a break.” More:

Tughluq, innovator

Aditya Dev Sood in 3quarksdaily:

One day the Sultan was looking from a turret window onto the city of Delhi and he no longer liked what he saw. These people were spoiled and unimaginative. Like the residents of every other large and imperial city, they reeked with the parochialism of the metropolis. Even before he became Muhammand bin Tughluq, the Sultan of Hindustan, he had ridden across the burning plateaus of Mahratta, Warangal and Kampili, down deep into Ma’bar, the Tamilian tip of the subcontinent. He knew what they didn’t — the rest of Hindustan lay to the south — all the unconquered petty kingships, all the riches, all the lands yet to be assimilated into his Sultanate. This city of Delhi was just too far north.

With the precise and strategic thinking that had marked all his successful military campaigns, Tughluq began looking for a place that would be more accessible to the furthest reaches of the Sultanate. It had to be equidistant, more or less, from Gujarat and the Sindh, from Delhi and the Gangetic plains, from Bengal, and from the new territories in the South, which he had himself conquered. In this way, he arrived at Devagiri, a small military encampment, from which he planned more efficiently to administer his empire. In 1327, he ordered his subordinate officers of the court, their families and servants, the artisans and traders who supported and served them, to move to Devagiri.

At first, nothing happened. No one would agree to move. He renamed the city Daulatabad, or Money-Ville. He built a wide and safe road to the new city to encourage his courtiers and the rest of the general public of Delhi to relocate. Frustrated in his several inducements, proclamations, commandments, he force-marched the population of Delhi to Daulatabad in 1330. Miserable in their new surroundings, his people were struggling to come to terms to their new conditions when water ran out at the fort. The Sultan himself never remained in Devagiri, being compelled to ride out repeatedly to whichever distant realm of the empire was in crisis or in danger of being lost to local revolt. It was only years later that Tughluq finally relented, allowing those who still survived in Daulatabad to trickle back to Delhi. About this time that the Moroccan travel writer Ibn Batutta arrived in the city to record the anger of the surviving local populace of Delhi. What had once been a large and great city was now empty, abandoned, deserted.

What was Tughluq thinking? More:

City of the White Tiger

Booker Prize-winning author Arvind Adiga describes Delhi as a city of class barriers and wild peacocks, where he learnt to want something more than his life. In Mint Lounge:

One Tamil businessman, the son of a famous babu, took pity on me.

“New Delhi is full of beautiful, sensitive Sikh women interested in painting and music. And they are stuck with these big hairy men drinking Royal Challenge. They’re all looking for south Indians to have affairs with, trust me.”

A portly Bengali public relations man told me the secret of his success: language lessons. Years ago, when the Indian economy opened up, he had figured out that Delhi would soon be full of lonely Swedish businesswomen looking for someone to talk to. His insight had paid off handsomely. “Keep away from Danish,” he said—he was learning that now. “Go for Finnish. Icelandic.”

I took my troubles to a woman; she got to the heart of the problem.

“Why don’t you have a car? You’ve got the money.”

I told her I had lived in New York for most of my adult life; I didn’t know how to drive.

“Then get a driver.”

I had been out of India for so many years that I was uncomfortable with having servants. I could not order people around.

“Then you can kiss your chances of getting laid in Delhi goodbye,” she said.

********

In late 2003, I was still paying taxes in America, so it horrified me that the US consulate was hosting a “Gallo drinking appreciation event” one evening on the lawns of the ITC Sheraton. What a waste of my tax money, I thought, walking past the people quaffing free Californian Chardonnay. Behind them, a pianist was playing old film tunes, and a slim short woman in a green dress was dancing around him.

The friend who had brought me there noticed my noticing her.

“Speak to her,” he said. “She’s into books.” He whispered: “Bengali.”

Noticing my reticence, he brought the woman over by the arm to where I stood.

I was 28 then; she looked a few years older. Almost as soon as we began talking she told me she had been divorced.

I was not sure about the cultural significance of this; did she not want me to make a pass at her?

To confuse me further, she added, “Twice divorced.”

Having no idea what she wanted me to say, I asked if she had read Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

No, but she had all his books at home. She lived in Greater Kailash-II. What was I doing after this?

The pianist left; the lights flickered. Gallo appreciation evening was over. People left the lawns.

Now came the dreaded part of the evening. When we got to the lobby of the hotel, I confessed: “I have no car.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, with a smile. “I have one.”

I met her four times. When I called for a fifth meeting, her secretary picked up the phone and said: “She is in Calcutta.”

The next time I called, she said: “She is in Bangalore.”

The next time the phone was not picked up. More:

The world that is the family

Aditya Dev Sood in 3quarksdaily:

When I think of home, when I think of where I am from, what comes into my mind is a large courtyard, hidden above the colonnades of Connaught Circus, where my Grandfather’s house was, and in some sense, still is. My cousin Lohash and I duck into a dark recess among the shops in the colonnade and climb three quick flights of stairs to enter that unlikely retreat, so different from the hubbub below. The trees sprawling out of the planters are large and overgrown, but seem ashen from neglect. So much has been changed around in the rooms, but the art deco bedroom set in my grandparent’s room is still in place, and perhaps that was all that mattered about the place, for all the other rooms ranging in different directions around the courtyard were always in transition, accommodating some fraction of his many children, always growing larger and more numerous, never quite growing up.

Lohash is here to try and take a few photographs for our cousin Aparna’s project, The Sood Family Cookbook, which will be forthcoming from HarperCollins next year. The book collects recipes from different members of the family, also including a discussion of how each recipe was acquired, when it was used and how and where it came to be appreciated by other members of the family. The book opens with Pahadi food, madra, palda, khatti dal, the core dishes of the family from the highlands of Punjab, which remind us of who were were, are, and must remain. But then it moves on to family classics, which have emerged over time, on account of the food traditions of those who have married into the family, or the innovations created by people in response to specific challenges or events in their life, or the global influences and experiences of different contributors. These include, for example, all the chocolate cakes and desserts that my mother brought from New York, an aunt’s Sindhi Fenugreek-Fish, and an uncle’s ‘Whimsical Spaghetti Pancake.’ Even us non-cooks have the odd recipe in there, for example my Kapi Al-Sikandar, a kind of Mocha Alexander with spices and vanilla ice-cream. It is, in a way a compendium of the knowledges and memories of this family, a primer on how to maintain its traditions, a training manual for someone who wants to become a part of it. More:

Notes from a beautiful city

CWG — the opening ceremony

Skip the first five minutes…

… the drum sequence continues…

…the A.R. Rahman song (the video and sound quality are not very good)

Raining on the Games

Delhi in preparation embodies the arrogance of the ruling elite.  Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph:

We are past the first week of September and it is still raining in Delhi. After years of living with climate (hot and sunny for nine months and then cold and smoggy for three), this year we’ve had weather. There’s green scum growing on brick, every other person smells powerfully of the damp and mornings darken with the promise of rainy-day holidays. And yet, most of us still leave home without umbrellas; after years, decades of spotty rain, it’ll take more than a few weeks of wet to get us to believe in the monsoon.

My local taxi driver, in his capacity as absentee Sikh rich peasant, is delighted with the rain. But in his urban avatar, the rain makes him a ghoul. You wait, he says with gloomy satisfaction, the Jamuna will rise and wash the Commonwealth Games away. A quick vision of sprinters overtaken by water unspools in my head. Most of us in Delhi feel perversely vindicated when we come across a collapsed road or hear of a leaking stadium or pass labourers racing against the clock to pave the pavements. Dilliwallahs at the best of times feel no sense of belonging, and the disruptive run up to the Games has alienated us so completely from our city that we’ve become connoisseurs of our own suffering, Zen masters of self-directed schadenfreude.

In the normal course, if a municipality was to make a concerted push to supply its citizens and rate payers with properly flagged pavements, they would rejoice. Delhi has just acquired miles and miles of gorgeously tiled pavement; verges that divide arterial roads have been greened with nursery plants, stainless steel bus stops have mushroomed all over the city, distant suburbs and satellite towns have been hurriedly joined to the city’s centre with Metro lines, but the hectic, last-minute style in which all this has been done has provoked cynicism, not satisfaction.

Delhi’s citizens are convinced that billions have been skimmed off the top. In Lutyens’ Delhi, the pavements and verges have been dressed in red sandstone. Sculpted bollards in matching sandstone protect these pavements from rogue motor-cyclists and scooter drivers who would encroach on them. In Khan Market, home to the most expensive retail real estate in the country, some genius decided to flag the pavements with polished slabs of granite. When kitty-party dowagers began skidding off their glazed surfaces and breaking their hips, the granite was torn off and replaced with textured Kota stone. There’s an incommensurateness to this, a blitheness that feels wrong. Even in a city famous for its backhanders, the Games seem like a carnival of contractor-driven corruption. More:

Can ‘Swagatham’ be another ‘Jai Ho’?

Emily Veach in the Wall Street Journal:

The man best known around the world for his Oscar-winning “Jai Ho” is hoping to have everyone singing along to his Commonwealth Games anthem by the time it’s performed at the opening ceremony Oct. 3.

“Jiyo, Utho, Bado, Jeeto” (Live, Rise, Ascend, Win), also known as “Swagatham” (Welcome), was released on Aug. 28 to mixed reviews. The Times of India quotes organizing committee member Vijaykumar Malhotra as saying, “We expected a better song from Rahman.” Anonymous reviews on Youtube and various music-sharing sites vary from love to hate.

Mr. Rahman called it “simple but not simplistic” in an Aug. 16 press conference.

The song starts out fairly slow, harmonizing with back-up singers, with this call: Oh Yaaron! Yeh India, Bulaa Liya (Oh Friends! India has called you). Then the song transitions, sometimes a little choppily, between rock-and-roll and soft rock, with a bit of Bollywood flair mixed in. It might not gain as much acclaim as Slumdog Millionaire’s “Jai Ho,” but after listening to it a few times, the melody is stuck in my head. More:

Sex and the Games

Come October, Delhi will host the Commonwealth Games. There is an entire sex industry readying itself for business. Akshay Sawai and Pallavi Polanki in Open:

The man who answers the phone at the escort services office calls himself ‘Sam’. He wants a face-to-face meeting at Mahipalpur, a suburb close to the airport, before he can seal the deal. Hopefully, he is not holding his breath.

In contrast, the lady at Delhi 69 Escorts, which describes itself as an ‘Exclusive Delhi Escorts Agency’, seems a lot more at ease with phone conversations. Perhaps because this time it is a man with a European accent calling. In a recorded conversation available with Open, this is what the lady on the other side of the line has to say: “For Commonwealth Games, you will have to make advance bookings. We already have so many bookings for Commonwealth, so many bookings. We definitely recommend prior bookings, we cannot guarantee the availability of girls for Commonwealth. Rates will depend on the profile [of the girl], we don’t have fixed rates, the charges may vary according to profile… We have Russian girls, but I would suggest you go for Indian girls. They are more high profile, they speak well, they are educated, and they are fluent in English.” Currently, Delhi 69’s minimum charge is Rs 20,000. She claims it could even go up to Rs 50,000 during the Games.

All this, you’d think, is hush hush. Evidently not. Senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, in whom the CWG has found its sharpest critic yet, wondered aloud about the sexual aspect of the Games on a televised debate recently. “The media have reported that there are going to be 150 condom vending machines installed in the Games Village alone,” Aiyar said. “The report says that 3,000 to 3,300 packets of condoms will be sold every day from these machines, and that each packet contains two condoms, which means over a 15-day period, there will be one lakh condoms sold. What is the game that is going to be played at the Commonwealth Games? Is this sex tourism or sports tourism?” More:

Being there: Delhi

Simon Cox in More Intelligent Life:

I first visited Delhi ten years ago, drawn not by the city but by one of its citizens. I had fallen in love with a Dilliwalli I met at university in America two years before. It was past time I saw her in her “native place”, as Indians put it.

We visited the usual tombs, markets, shrines and gardens, including the domed presidential palace on Raisina Hill that once housed the viceroy. Our trip coincided with a visit by the wives (they were all wives) of the British High Commission. They cooed and fussed, like previous owners checking up on the new landlords. One even looked for dust under the carpet. It was a relief to escape into the palace’s Mughal Gardens, where a tiny Dilliwalla peed on the lawn while his parents smiled helplessly.

Delhi can be grand, but it is rarely solemn. The people can be rude, but never cold. Earlier this year I returned to Raisina Hill to watch India’s military bands beat the retreat, overseen by members of the camel cavalry. After the last bugle was sounded and the last bagpipe squeezed, a switch was flicked, and Delhi’s imposing imperial buildings, strung with bulbs, lit up like a Christmas decoration.

Visitors to Delhi often see a faded glory, like a grand carpet collecting dust. The city is casually littered with history, much of it neglected or buried under the paraphernalia of the present. But Delhi’s past will surely be overshadowed by its future. There are three times as many Indians alive today as there were at Independence in 1947, and Delhi is home to over 16m of them. Over the next three decades India should begin to regain the economic clout it lost over three centuries. To visit Delhi in a mood of nostalgia, then, is to close your eyes to history in the making. More:

Let’s get the basics right

New Delhi needs more than just grand edifices to join the list of the most liveable cities, says Namita Bhandare in the Hindustan Times:

Inside Delhi's new international airport terminal

I am dumbstruck by the sheer size and scale of Delhi’s new airport Terminal 3. The capital’s latest edifice heralds “a new India, committed to join the ranks of modern, industrialised nations,” says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Press reports have bordered on gush: a world class hub, the capital’s pride, an ultra-modern edifice to a country’s aspirations.

I don’t want to rain on this party, yet, I can’t help feeling: great about the airport, too bad about the city.

New Delhi, host to the Commonwealth Games, dreams of becoming a world-class city, a chimera of steel and glass buildings and a network of flyovers that intersect over eight-lane highways where zippy new cars and smart green buses carry people to homes with names like Malibu Towne and Wisteria.

But a city has to be more than the sum total of its monuments. A great city must go beyond physical structures to answer fundamental questions: can we really live here, and if we live here then what is the quality of our life? Can we walk on the streets? Do we breathe clean air? Are we safe in our homes and outside them? Can we access affordable public health? Do we breed tolerance for our neighbours? Most important, is there equity for all citizens?

“There is zero vision for this city,” says Pradeep Sachdev, an architect who specialises in the design of public spaces like Dilli Haat. “You’re lucky if you can manage to cross the street safely.” More:

Crime graph: Delhi vs New York

From Our Delhi Struggle:

The statistics reflect our observations. We don’t argue with reports that show Delhi to be India’s “crime capital“. But while Delhi may be dangerous by Indian standards, it’s positively tranquil as compared to American cities. The Delhi region had 495 murders in 2007, or 2.95 murders for every 100,000 people by the National Crime Records Bureau’s population estimates. In that same year, however, New York City had 5.94 murders per 100,000 people — and that was a year that New York City was named the safest big city in the United States. There’s a similar story for rape in 2007: 3.57 per 100,000 in New Delhi, 10.48 per 100,000 in New York. More:

Capital Gains

Rana Dasgupta in Granta:

It all comes together on the roads.

Delhi is a segregated city; an impenetrable, wary city – a city with a fondness for barbed wire, armed guards and guest lists. Though its population now knocks up against 20 million, India’s capital remains curiously faithful to the spirit of the British administrative enclave with which it began: Delhiites admire social rank, name-dropping and exclusive clubs, and they snub strangers who turn up without a proper introduction. The Delhi newspapers pay tribute every morning to the hairstyles and parties of its rich, and it is they, with their high-walled compounds and tinted car windows, who define the city’s aspirations. Delhi’s millionaires are squeamish about public places, and they don’t like to go out unless there are sufficient valets and guards to make them feel at home, and prices exorbitant enough to keep undesirables out.

But in this segregated city, everyone comes together on the roads. The subway network is still incomplete, there are few local trains (unlike Mumbai), and you can’t take a helicopter to work (unlike São Paulo) – the draconian security regulations prevent that. So the Delhi roads accommodate every kind of citizen and offer a unique exhibition of the city’s social relations.

On the eve of ‘liberalization’ in 1991 – when the then finance minister, Manmohan Singh, opened the economy up to global money flows, so bringing an end to four decades of centralized planning – there were three varieties of car on sale in India. The Hindustan Ambassador and Premier Padmini had both been around for thirty years and it took seven years to acquire one – production was limited to a few thousand a year and ownership restricted, in practice, to bureaucrats and senior businessmen. The compact Maruti 800, by contrast, was a recent arrival that had been conceived as a ‘people’s car’: with a quota of 150,000 a year it had brought the possibility of private car travel within reach, for the first time, of the middle classes. More: