Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is Delhi ready for the Queen’s baton?

As London sets the stage for the Commonwealth Games baton relay where the Queen will pass on the torch to our First Lady, I cross my fingers.

Come October 2010, and Delhi will be the cynosure of world attention as it hosts the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Since its selection in 2003, Delhi has been gearing up for this mega event. With a sanctioned budget of more than 5000 Crores, we have seen infrastructural improvements in the capital city – neat flyovers, the blessed Metro, the beautiful Akshardham, the much talked about Commonwealth Games Village, commissioning of new buses, widening of roads – we might not be doing the best but we could have been much worse!

This time around, it is not the cynic in me but the proud Delhite that asks the question – Are we there yet? Are we ready? Are we all set? We better be. The last time I visited Delhi (that’s like a month back), the flyovers seemed okay, the residential complex near the Commonweallth Village looked a tad bit incomplete and the Metro project looked derailed from its planned schedule, by quite a measure!

As Pratibha Patil asserted Delhi’s readiness for the games on BBC, I sent out a silent prayer to the one above – “We might be behind schedules, we might be corrupt, we might have slacked off – but God please save the face of 1.2 billion people who are united by their national identity and pride. Let no shortcoming dampen the enthusiasm of the event, let no tragedy mar the spirit of the season, and most importantly, let every visitor and guest experience the spirit that is Delhi - the rich cultural heritage blended with modern amenities, the historical old world charm in the backdrop of a fast-paced urbane city. - Amen”

This is our moment – go Delhi go!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Love Jehad

In an earlier post, I had talked about the complexity and heartache behind a girl changing her name after marriage. However, I realize this could be a much smaller issue, when compared to the ‘love jehad’ or ‘romeo jehad’ talked about in a news snippet here.

Apparently, some groups in Kerala are concertedly working on converting Hindu girls to Islam after they fall in love with Muslim boys.
I can’t even decipher the plethora of emotions that crossed my mind and heart as I read the article. It is not only to do with the status of women in our society even in this day and age; it also has not much to do with questions on will men convert instead; it is about introspecting on our own religion and our own god!

Ofcourse, this is no breaking news to any of us; we all have at some point or the other heard of such conversions in an inter-religion marriage – Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Christian, Christian-Muslim. However, each time I read a story of coerced transition in the name of love and religion, I cringe in fear.

Every religion says one God, every religion says respect the other – If there is one God, and each religion simply sees a different manifestation of the same super power, we are doing a great injustice to our concept of God or the Almighty by forcing one to change his or her religion.

It is unfortunate that how the history of human kind unravels the degenerative association of God with religion, religion with traditions and beliefs, traditions and beliefs with division, division with hatred, and hatred with bloodshed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


A nagging desire for light

The night has been black, evil almost
The fear of the unknown
Intensifying in the obscurity
Haunting shadows, now apparitions

The promise of the morning beacon
Offers little consolation
If it is not now
It doesn’t really matter when

The question of survival
Lasts only as long as
The darkest vertex
And once that is endured
The shimmer of the break of dawn
No longer warms the soul

The blinding blaze and the
Beaming glow, the piercing
Ebony and the deafening silence
Concatenates into a nebulous halo
Enveloping the consciousness
Of the being that once
Yearned for eternal illumination

The nagging desire for light
Replaced by the strength to
Bear nadirs and zeniths alike

Monday, October 5, 2009

SOS – Our hill stations need a savior!

A kumaoni by birth, I have been very proud of my “native” land – the hills of Uttarakhand (formerly, Uttaranchal, and before that a part of the state of Uttar Pradesh). Most of our vacations during my growing up years were spent visiting breathtaking valleys and mountainous ranges of Nainital, Bhimtal, Almora, Pithoragarh and Lohaghat – the lesser known but much more beautiful cousins of the more popular – Mussorie and Dehradun.

This time around I visited the hills after a gap of 5 years. The journey was as always arduous and my affinity to mountain sickness does not help matters. But forget that. Dad took a less-traveled route to Almora – our chosen destination - and it was undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives I have ever taken. The long winding roads wrapped around the mountains with royal pines spread out till as far as the eye can see, and the mist rising softly as if from below the mountains – heaven is here.

But before I could completely lose myself in the picturesque view that enveloped us, the driver screeched rudely at our first halt.
Rickety shops lined along the road serving food that has never known the word hygiene. Sanitation is at its worst. No, you don’t want a description of the restrooms.

We tried to drown the ugly reality in the beauty of nature and reached Almora - a town that has not changed with the passage of time. I do not know if I mean this as an appreciation. Almora still does not have a drainage and sewage system. The vehicles have increased but the roads have deteriorated.
Move to Nainital – all that is good about the place is what the colonial rule bequeathed on us. We have barely been able to maintain the infrastructure developed by the British more than 200 years ago. The number of people visiting these places has multiplied manifold, and the “mall” road has become a mess of smoke and noise.

What makes me so bitter at the state of affairs is that nothing is being done, nobody is bothered. What should not change – the weather, the majesty of nature, the peace and solitude of the place – is changing thanks to global warming, unchecked pollution and total disregard for our natural heritages; And what should change – the infrastructure, roads, education of the local population, sanitation – is not changing.

It is a frustrating experience seeing these places that offer hope for retreat and sanity in a world that’s maddeningly complicated, simply fade away their charm and glory.

However, I must mention that Bhimtal is a few notches better than the other two places. There is a serenity in the place that is intoxicating. So maybe next summer, you could plan a trip to Bhimtal to beat the heat. Leaving you with a picture of the calm and placid waters.


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