Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ghalib's city – heartless, prideless!


A spate of events and observations during the past few days in Delhi have really made me sit up and wonder – Is this the same Ghalib's city!
Let me recall a few of my observations.
I was on my way to attend a function when a traffic policeman near Connaught Place accosted my private taxi. He approached the driver and said that he had violated traffic rules and should pay up a fine of Rs 1100. After a few words, a nod and a wink, the policeman took Rs 100 as fine. He was about to write a receipt when the cabbie declined it saying he was in a hurry and drove off. When asked, he told me that this was the standard cabbie-cop code in city to make the whole act of greasing palms look official and unsuspecting to the passengers.
Dr Leonal Fernandez, President
of Dominican Republic
Another day, I went to attend a function held in honour of Dr Leonal Fernandez, President of The Dominican Republic. The programme had started at 10 am and I reached there around 11 am. I was hoping that it would take at least 5 to 10 minutes to pass through  the standard security checks for functions hosting foreign heads of state. But to my amazement, I found myself gliding into the hall where I met the President, shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and got photographed (picture). There were no car checks and no checks at the entrance or at any other level. To put it simply, there was hardly any security.
Change of scene. I was at the India-UK polo match. As I entered the match was in progress. The score said 1-0 in favour of India. I noticed a lady standing next to me, all decked up in top designer wear and accessories. I asked her who had scored the goal for India, to which she earnestly exclaimed, “Have goals been scored!” Well, how correct a friend of mine was who had told me that “being seen” during polo matches is among the latest fads in the capital. The game or match, as such, was secondary.
Similarly, I have found that it is a fashion in Delhi to attend art and other exhibitions, while in Kolkata it is a passion. Attendance in functions, especially the classical kind, is directly proportional to the connections the performer has.
But the last straw was this incident near a famous paan shop close to Hotel Claridges. I saw a gentleman, who had parked his Santro, stop over to buy paan from this famous shop. A SUV of foreign make, with music blaring, came and banged the Santro while parking. The gentleman approached the three raw raucous youngsters who had emerged from the SUV to tell them that they should park their car with care only to be slapped in public. Some of the locals advised the gentleman to steer clear of these men who were relatives of some minister from a neighbouring state.
Napoleon had once said - Scratch a Russian and you'll find a Tartar. Scratch a Delhiwallah and god only knows what one would find. I can never think of being loud with a cabbie or any other person in public life in Kolkata. But here in Delhi, from MDs to their loudmouthed underlings, boorish mannerisms seems to be the order of the day and, perhaps, works too.
Delhi has the dubious tag of being the `crime and rape capital of the world'. I had never really believed this in my heart till I witnessed this daytime city life incident in the heart of the capital a few days back.
Ghalib is a metaphor for the great culture of Delhi. But being here in Delhi, I wonder with sadness - Is this the same Ghalib's city that we grew up reading in history books.
Diplomat writer Pavan K Varma has very aptly portrayed this decadence of Delhi in his book Ghalib: The Man, The Times. With a heavy heart I agree with Mr Varma when he says, "Without pride you can't have a great capital."
Delhi, it seems, is a heartless and prideless city.
-ess bee

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