Reaching for the Universe

 

“Universal” is a tricky word. It has an enormous appeal, an unquestioned romance of taking every one along. Universal human rights, universal access to basic services, housing for all. It is the barometer of inclusion done right. The dark side of the romance is that it’s one of the hardest things to actually achieve. Often the “universal” is a vanishing horizon and, like all horizons, the mirage is what makes you lose sight of the very real trade-off’s and constraints in your way.

This week the Delhi Jal Board announced a new horizon towards the idea of universal access to a basic urban service and human need: water. The “Jal Adhikar Connection” (a Right to Water Connection) promises to let households within slums in Delhi apply for legal, metered water connections “irrespective of the status of their residence.” This move – following the Government of Delhi’s already given pledge to extend water and sanitation services to unauthorized colonies – implies that legal, public and metered water could (like electricity) actually cover the city as it exists rather than as it is imagined in plans and laws.

Continue reading “Reaching for the Universe”

[Kafila Audio] Dilli Tha Jiska Naam: Recollections of a Forgotten City

Last week I caught up with Shubhum Mishra, a cartographer/geographer/urban planner, in Sundar Nursery – a Mughal garden turned  colonial green house spanning 70 acres in the heart of Delhi – that shall should be open to the public sometime next year.

Shubhum has just transliterated Intizar Husain’s famous book – Dilli Tha Jiska Naam – from the original Urdu/farsi script to devnagari, in the hope of making this incredible resource more accessible to north Indian readers. In this conversation he reads excerpts from the book and I asked him why modern Indian cities are so spectacularly ugly.

Listen in for a fascinating description of Chandini Chowk and “Old Delhi” – back from when “Old Delhi” was the only Delhi around.  Shubhum will respond to comments on the site. His book is now available in most book stores around the city and you can buy it here

 

[Audio] Delhi: A Hydrological History

In summer, Delhi’s fancy turns grimly to thoughts of thirst.

How can a mega-city provide a safe and sustainable supply of water to its 24 million residents? How has it done so in the past? What do we lose when we turn our backs on a river,  turn our streams into sewers and lay concrete over our ponds?

In this conversation, Sohail Hashmi summons the Delhi of history, and  the Delhi of his childhood through recollections of the Yamuna, ponds, streams, and the Urdu Bazaar where everyone had a favourite well from where they drew their daily sustenance.

Like what you hear? Leave us comments on how we can expand our audio section

 

31st August in Manipur – The day and after: Roluahpuia

Guest Post by ROLUAHPUIA

In Manipur, most days are not merely a day as they appear in the calendar. Many days in fact are commemorated and remembered and therefore political. For instance, the 18th of June is commemorated as the Great June Uprising by the Meitei mostly led by the United Committee Manipur (UCM) as a mark of remembrance to the loss of 18 lives as a result of the protest over the extension of ceasefire beyond territorial limits between the Government of India (GoI) and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim- Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM). On the contrary, 27th August is commemorated by the Mao Naga as ‘Martyrs Day’ to commemorate the loss of seven lives in 27th August of 1948 for the cause of Naga integration movement. For the last, 13th September of every year is commemorated by the Kuki as Kuki Black Day against the mass killing of Kuki by the Naga militants. What this three different commemoration displays is the noticeable cleavages and ethnic divides among the three ethnic groups of the state. Continue reading “31st August in Manipur – The day and after: Roluahpuia”

Peace, bread and politics of AAP: Satya Sagar

Guest post by SATYA SAGAR

Among the epithets, most frequently hurled at Arvind Kejriwal by the BJP, in the run up to the Delhi assembly elections, were ‘anarchist’, closely followed by ‘urban naxal’. What is it about AAP that threatens the Sangh Parivar to a point of exhibiting such great hysteria and anxiety?

AAP, despite some novelties, is after all a very mainstream political formation, operating completely within the ambit of the Indian Constitution and no pretensions of turning the system upside down?Is there something deeper happening here?

One possibility is of course that, in its name-calling, the BJP presumed the average Delhi voter would run scared, straight into the waiting arms of Papa Modi[1]. In that case then, it was obviously a complete misreading of the public mood of anger and defiance against established national parties. Continue reading “Peace, bread and politics of AAP: Satya Sagar”

On The Real Tragedy of Secular Modernity: Anand Vivek Taneja

This is a guest post by ANAND VIVEK TANEJA

anandpost

In the discussion around Aarti Sethi’s essay on Remembering Maqsood Pardesi some very important questions arose. As these questions are directly relevant to my work, but also to the larger concerns of the Kafila community, I decided to dwell on them at some length. As these reflections were written in response to the comments of one particular person, I address him directly in what follows below.

Dear Imtiaz,

In your comments on Aarti’s essay, you say the following things about my work:

The tragedy of secular moderns of India is their fascination with Islam… And it appears secular modern Hindus are too busy analyzing jinns of Delhi, which is really sad!

… what do I do with the knowledge of emerging liberal ideologues working for the empire writing enchanting texts about chattan baba or the jinns?

 

I think that your opening statement is profound. But to understand its true depth, we need to revisit the terms “secular”, and “modern”, as well as our understandings of “Hinduism” and “Islam.” As an entry point into these questions, I will address your (rhetorical) question about what one should, and can do with “enchanting” texts about jinns. Continue reading “On The Real Tragedy of Secular Modernity: Anand Vivek Taneja”

Racist villagers versus hapless Africans and other simplistic binaries

The residents of Khirki are angry. They say they have been misrepresented, their grievances are not being given a patient hearing because the rest of us are doing politics over them. Nobody even wants to hear that they could have a case, that the story could be about more than just skin colour. Kafila and Times Now alike will tell you they are a bad, racist, evil lynch mob who deserve to be disenfranchised.

Even if that is what they are, will the summary dismissal of what they are saying be of help in resolving the situation? Forget the debates about the Aam Aadmi Party. As their elected representative, Somnath Bharti with all his vigilante zeal was doing what representative democracy makes representatives do. The people were making their voice heard through their elected representative. But we don’t want to hear their voice. If we did, we’d realise what the area needs is dialogue and understanding. All the problems with Africans and others in a 14th century ‘urban village’ next to 21st century shopping malls need a conversation that won’t come if we don’t want to appreciate the complexity of a social situation. By refusing to do so, we are being as unhelpful as the vigilantism of Somnath Bharti.

But at least we are thinking about Khirki. As for Sagarpur, where on earth is that?

These last few days, you have been fed one-sided angst by a media eager to help Narendra Modi overcome the pro-AAP mood, by pre-ideological leftists eager to bring down the AAP house so that Narendra Modi can come to power and they can do proper full-time chest-beating over fascism, by big industry already unhappy to see the AAP government move against Walmart. Is there a bigger picture?