Guest post by ALOK RAI
It was bound to come sooner or later. The wonder – the absolute, outrageous, impudent surprise of it all is that it has come so soon. The Games have barely limped to their pathetic conclusion – and those of us who are waiting for the post-Games reckoning are waiting but impatiently, inadequately consoled by the sound of the sharpening of the knives, the braiding of the hangman’s rope – or, most likely, the Japanese water torture of the promised Shunglu probe. And in the midst of this unfolding fiasco, this still-running disaster, the lovely Mr Arvinder Singh Lovely, Delhi’s Transport Minister, has made the suggestion that the insult of the Games lane, the closing off to the public of a significant part of the road which has been made with public money, be made permanent. This – as we were told in full-page ads paid for by us – was done with threats of a hefty fine or, worse, far worse, being exposed to the courtesies of a Delhi cop. The ineffable experience of crawling along patiently (but proudly, always proudly!) while sundry others flashing CWG insignia whizzed past in the CWG lane – an experience that so many of us chose to miss, could now become a permanent feature of the metro experience. I can’t wait!
To be fair, one can understand the temptation. After all, the city has been beautified – after a fashion. If one half-closes one’s eyes, and moves fast in a chauffeured, curtained limousine in carefully selected areas, one can almost pretend that one is in a European city. All the marks of the Indian city – the indigent and the unwashed, the daily wage earners and the hand-cart traders, have been driven away, banished, erased. Even mere citizens have been frightened off the streets – Dadwal and Garg and others with similarly euphonious names have convinced the bulk of Delhi’s citizens that if they the citizens – we the people, so to speak – are not appropriately frightened of terrorism, then they are liable to fall under suspicion of being terrorists themselves. The message in either case is the same – stay at home. And they are – those that have stayed in Delhi, that is. Countless others have gone away, sometimes electively, but in the case of thousands of vendors and hawkers, they have been told – yes, by the police, I don’t know if there are any written orders, but I know that these vendors and hawkers don’t routinely take two week autumn breaks – told to absent themselves from the City for the duration of the Games. So. And the absence of written orders only makes it worse, not better.
Now, if only this could be made permanent…
Welcome to the Lovely City. I had occasion to see the sort of thing that Mr Lovely has in mind. Moscow’s traffic jams are famous. At a time when cities vie with each other for the dubious primacy of being the most congested and chaotic – Mexico City, Bangkok… – Moscow is right up there near the top. But the parasites who travel in the curtained limos need have nothing to do with the stranded folk patiently inhaling exhaust fumes in the barely-moving ordinary lanes – because of course, and this must be another ironic distinction for the once-socialist republic, in Moscow there is a VIP lane that one enters only at one’s peril. I have seen harassed citizens – possibly trying to keep an appointment, get to hospital, or whatever – being rudely shoved aside by the kind of gun-toting louts one sees hanging around our parasites, too. And indeed been rudely thrust aside too. But now Mr Lovely wants the privilege of being able to do so with the blessing of the law itself. So that the crooks and knaves with fluttering flags and flashing beacons can get faster from nowhere to nowhere.
I have a very simple solution for the security problem that will be brought forward as an argument for claiming the privilege. Create a state-of-the-art maximum-security seven-star facility in some distant, sylvan location – all marble and granite and gilt, done up to the nines in the Mall Chic to which the ruling elite so transparently aspires – and keep the worthies there. That way they’ll be safe – and we’ll be safe from them. Safe from them and their louts. In these days of high-speed digital communications, with bits traveling along optical fibres at the speed of light, surely we don’t need all those VIP atoms rushing about in wheeled metal traps – in constant danger, alas, of themselves being rendered into bits, albeit of a more primitive kind? I fear, however, that my well-meaning suggestion will remain unheard, and Mr Lovely will persist with his outrageous suggestion of making the CWG lane a permanent feature. High-sounding reasons will be advanced – he mumbles about public transport, ambulances, etc, but one would have to be terminally stupid not to see what the point of the permanent reserved lane would be: it would be reserved for Mr Lovely and others like him, the flags and beacons, the guns and the goons. Parasites only.
In that eventuality may I, in the land of Gandhi – I mean the bald one – recommend that the citizens of Delhi, who have put up with the humiliation and the outrage of the CWG 2010 in the hope that it would be temporary – normal, chaotic life would resume, livelihoods get restored – mount a serious campaign of civil disobedience? Reclaim the city that was once ours – or so we believed – until it was hijacked by Lovely & Co.?