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September 17, 2008


What would we/you do if we wake up to our neighbourhood being bombed and tanks patrolling our streets? Will we stock up on food or will we take backups of our hard drives?

That was written a month back (make love, not war), on the eve of the Indian independence. A month later, the city that was my home for the last 10 years has had serial blasts. (Pic: GK1 market)

Prince Pan Corner at the Greater Kailash (Part 1) market in New Delhi, is stuff made of legends. Apparently the owner (is he called Prince?) is a real-life rags-to-riches story. Or in this case, a betel leaves to Mercedes Benz story. I had first heard about PPC in 1998, the same time ‘GK 1’ market became synonymous with ‘posh’ in my understanding. That was my first year in Delhi, the PVR Anupam multiplex complex was just about coming up and the shopping mall invasion and hoardings of Parsavnath Developers and co. were still a distant dream (nightmare?).

So much changed in the 10 years I lived in that city.

(Pic: flower market, Lado Sarai, Saket)
From being the centre of public transport chaos -- used to board the 727 Palam airport bus -- the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) centre crossing changed forever with the new clover-leaf flyover. Dhaula Kuan turned into a maze though the Naraina road junction is still a traffic bottleneck. Celebrated as Delhi’s first multiplex, the PVR group changed the face and the cinema history of the city. As the multiplexes and malls that housed the many screens mushroomed, the single-screen movie halls died out. From being the hub for catching the latest ‘English’ movie, Chanakya cinema (Yashwant Place) became a poor cousin to PVR. Once upon a time as a first year college student, we lined up outside Priya cinema for a Rs 10 ticket. Now the cheapest ticket is Rs 100 and you can watch the same movie lying down with a blanket and snacks served to you for Rs 700.

(Pic: Delhi Haat)
There was a time when you would never go hungry in Delhi. There were colony-corner, boiled-egg hawkers at dawn and aloo-parantha masters at the wee hours of the night. With those you got sweetened, ginger tea. Outside AIIMS, under the Moolchand flyover, opposite IIT Delhi, egg, paneer, onion and aloo paranthas with pickle were devoured by those on bikes and in BMWs alike. Not anymore. The city municipal council wants to regularise street hawkers. Gol gappas are served with gloves on, bhelpuri that cost Rs 7 is now Rs 20, samosas have to be eaten with knives and forks and the roadside tea stalls are being replaced by swanky Baristas and other coffee chains. Chai too now comes in jasmine, ginseng and other flavours and has become so alien, it’s called a health drink.

(Pic: Sundar Nursery, Nizamuddin)
The commercial hub of Connaught Place (CP) in central Delhi was a frequent haunt for coffee indulgence. There was an interesting piece in the now-defunct afternoon paper, Today, where they had photoshopped the pan-stained, dirty pillars in CP, cleaned the garbage, set up umbrellas and imagined what a clean, shopper-friendly CP would look like. Even though imaginary, it looked beautiful. Now you see roads dug up everywhere, somewhere for the Metro, at others for the high capacity bus corridors. Early this year, the Delhi Municipal Corporation chopped up healthy trees on Panchsheel road to make way for buses and cars even as Tata Motors introduced the Nano so that every Indian can have a car. Shudder.

Development on one side, demise of a city’s ethos on another.

Saturday (September 13, 2008), a series of bombs went off in Delhi, killing 30 people. Both CP and GK1 were bombed (along with Ghaffar Market). In the latter, it was near Prince Pan Corner. In CP, it was on Barakhamba (12 pillars literally) road. I commuted on that road frequently. Though in recent times unrecognisable - thanks to Delhi Metro rail project and other ‘development‘ work -- than what it looked like first when I arrived in Delhi.

Yesterday (Tuesday), when I asked friends back in Delhi if things were all right with them, the response was more or less the same from everyone. Bordering from lacklustre, to ludicrous and downright lackadaisical. Serial blasts and 30 dead as invites for weekend DJ gigs were being sent out on Facebook. Is it just Delhi? Or is it India? Or the fact that we are a billion plus and have many to kill?

Daily after the primetime news, one American TV network (forgetting the name, will find out) flashes faces of American soldiers who are being killed daily in Iraq. No music, no sound effects, just pictures and names. Do we remember a single name -- without being related to him/them -- of the soldiers who died in the Kargil war? One boy went missing in Melbourne -- Indian child, adopted from Mumbai -- and it made headlines here. I am not too sure if we even have a complete database of missing people in India.

As I logged on to various websites to get more details on the bomb blasts, I came upon a slideshow on IBNLive.com. Just pictures of dead and injured with haphazard captions. Another game of hit counts without any thought or feeling. Not one site bothered with interviews or insight or even a post/piece that spoke about how or what people felt. No one seems to care and life goes on. But why don’t we care?

And what would we/you do if we wake up to our neighbourhood being bombed and tanks patrolling our streets? Will we stock up on food or will we take backups of our hard drives?

PS: Thanks Silvara! Guys n girls, read this and this as well.


Goofy Mumma said...

Apathy has become the biggest plague in India. Its spread its vicious grip all over the country, and it digs its roots deeper and deeper. We are happy as long as we are doing good, others don't matter. The year we had the July 11th blasts in Bombay, there were LOUD diwali celebrations in my neighbourhood, which alone had lost three precious lives.

Maxine said...

In a psychology book Ive read that damage towards the right hemisphere of the brain can impair our ability to be socially aware.
We are all collectively damaged and have lost the ability to recognize emotions.Is it cuz we have more poor people or we as a nation have less facilities to convey to the people at large the horror and cry of a bomb blast as against the ease at which other nations do.Or the belief people of the United states had on themselves and their nation that none can touch or harm them and one day boom! and they are shocked n horrified and we in India take any blasts casually cuz we think it can happen?As i'm typing this the TV screen is showing the natural disaster that happened in Texas and the people who lost their houses n belongings and wondering how to start life again.Here the whole nation is aware of the things that happen atleast inside their country.How about India?Where is the time to grieve or 'show' grief or support to the grieving families when they hate the government itself for not doing the part to make their life a bit better.And as long as its the man in the street whos lying dead in a bomb blast and not some celebrity or a birla, tata, why would the nation care to make the people socially aware and give a knock on peoples emotional side.

Silvara said...

Babe...I just wrote about this before...esp how I feel here in Aus I feel we're so isolated from it all - it's hard to feel something sometimes even when we are faced with the scenes of destruction.

However, I kinda feel that apathy may be just a coping mechanism for a lot of people to survive ...i dunno...

Ant said...

I abso-bloody-lutely agree with you on this...I guess we have all turned greedily myopic,,scampering around like deaf ants, we won't cry out until someone tramples us along