Friday, June 18, 2010

Slumdog part 2: the commonwealth of filth

I don’t hate my job. I, in fact, have a weakness for the office, the people, the location, the timings, the smoke breaks, and once in a way, even the work.

It’s just a newspaper. You come up with story ideas, execute them -- i.e write the stories, 'omit needless words', give headlines, run spellchecks, adhere to deadlines and smoothly pass the buck if you’re asked what’s happening in Parliament.

Being friendly helps. And if you aren’t averse to chatting with the higher-ups in the editorial food chain every other time you see them in the corridor, life is a biscuit. There is an impression. It’s out there. You’re the cat. And the ability to hobnob with the big daddies ups your street cred.

Like my father said, “Child, it’s not what you do, it’s what they think you can do.”


My job has flexible timings. I skip the worst traffic. No 9-5 rush hour for me. People envy my job.

It’s an important reason I stick to the “cesspool of sloth” I work in. (A colleague came up with that one). For the most part, I get to come and go whenever. Sometimes questions will be asked. Is your copy in? Have the photos been shot? Is the page made?

Trick is to stay calm, lie, say yes, then rush back to make sure what they ask for is done well within deadline.


But while the work is mostly a cakewalk, it’s the drive – not even the driving -- to office that has me bored out of my wits. In the nearly three hours a day of commuting, I work myself up into a rotten mood thinking of how ugly Delhi is, and how immune we are to the filth in this city. The bits that were pretty are still pretty -- Aurangzeb road, anyone? -- and the less affluent parts -- all minus Aurangzeb road and it's neighbours -- from going to the dogs, they look like they’ve been taken over by wolves. The Commonwealth games will come and go but Vasant Kunj will remain a dump.

I keep my camera with me. I like to snap what's pretty and awww. Motion in a snap pleases me, etc. But there’s only so much motion in dust and construction and men taking a leak and garbage that can please! Day after day, I wish this place was more beautiful, that the subjects of photos weren't so - I have no choice but to write like I speak -- lower middle class! I know I know, it's elitist and classist and wrong and I should behave myself and be rational and acknowledge progress, but I think I'm on a venting roll and I need to know: must everything in this city, we're not even Bombay, look like a poster of Slumdog Millionaire?

Sometimes the highpoint of my day is, while driving, is a sprig of bougainvillea that has accidentally taken root in the middle of the road or the sky when it’s about to break – to no credit to any urban planning council committee or a lay Delhi-person such as myself!

On route to work, I see this man spray water on his litchi bunch.
He has to sell the fruit minus the dust from the construction behind him

I have to change my driving route to office. I don’t care if it takes longer, but I think seeing hideousness day after day, twice a day, is damaging my innards. It's making me screw my nose at the drop of a hat, but is it wrong to have basic standards? In the paranoia to pretty up the city before the games, Delhi’s an ugly, chaos zone. And I don't think I'm being hormonal in wondering, what were we thinking putting green cats eyes in the roads?!


There’s construction everywhere, garbage is overflowing, and we’re still not doing anything about the graffiti, the cheap posters, the ball scratchers, the snot blowers, the traffic flouters, the red light jumpers. Sure, the airport looks nice and Lutyens has it’s fabulous green roundabouts and fountains, but what of the dusty roads 20 kms east of beloved India Gate and even poor, dug-up Khan Market robbed of it’s dignity and pavement? We shan’t talk about Gurgaon, the free for all hell where I live, or the National Highway, where the careless, uneducated asses toss their toll slips out of the cars and hoot when I yell BASTARD. We shan’t talk about them. We're a city whose heritage has dwindled to uncouth, uncultured, unplanned and unscenic.


When I get back home from office and transfer my photos to my laptop, I am reminded of how ugly parts of my city are. Dusty auto rickshaws, beggars to whim who I never give money, construction work, signs with warped English, and the cheesy things people write on the back of their cars.

Yesterday I saw something like this AARushi and AARav. You have to visualise this. It was a common AAR for the 2 names -- presumably the kids of the person who pays the EMI for the car -- and then in a tinier font ushi and av. Felt too jaded to photograph that, but it was there.

If only they let me work from home, I’d save on fuel, I wouldn’t have to drive, and then I could be the head-burying ostrich avoiding the city’s filth and jarring aesthetics and deal with a different crisis, an altered ennui.


The Bald Guy said...

Three hours is a long commute. Poor you.

Hate driving all that long eh?

Try jogging instead.

Anonymous said...

You know, I really really hated my hour-long auto ride for the ugliness and the dust in Delhi. And then I moved to Bombay. Now I go back to Delhi and my eyes get as big as those of Canadians in NY city. Or something like that. Think about this (and don't bite my head off): Does the highway in your city run parallel to a large drain that stinks all year round? Do you never hear the pitter-patter of raindrops because your house/office/mall/random friend's house/every bleddy building is a high rise with you wedged in some midway floor? How long has it been since you saw more than 8 of the sky at one go? Can you spread your arms in any random loo without hitting the walls on either side?

All we got is Slumdog Millionaire. *See see, that's Dharavi. That's where it was shot. Largest slum in the world.*

Ok, I'm hormonal too, I guess.

Nimpipi said...

Bald G: Men on the streets won't let me jog. I live in rustic Haryana, remember? I'd be easy prey. And even if I survive the leering and cat calls, I would be late for work everyday. Very fit, but very late:)

Dark C: I get what you mean. I lived in Bombay for 4 months in a pigeon hole room with no view and I couldn't skip in the room because everything would fall down and movement was hindered.

Comparatively, Delhi is paradise, even Gurgaon. The parks and greener are paradise, not even comparatively. But I feel bad thinking about what this place could be with better planning. If only we weren't so disrespectful to all this space we have.

See, didn't bite your head off:P

Anonymous said...

Hee! Totally get what you're saying. I come from North Delhi, so yeah, totally get it.

Btw, "even Gurgaon" had me laughing :)

Nimpipi said...

I came back to check where I said 'even gurgaon' and then realised i wrote gibberish last time; you know what I meant though. Paradise repeated twice = 2 sentences that make no sense!

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Hummm. Nice picture you drew there with your words. Have faith. When I moved to New York City mumble-mumble years ago, it was a complete mess. A catastrophe. But as the years peeled away it got better. It's still not a scenic drive in the country, but it's significantly better than it use to be.

Parul said...

You are right, we have a very high threshold for ugliness.
Amongst other things.

The Mystic said...

Well m goin away from Delhi! to Biryaniland :P
and yeah VK is a dump! its like a huge parking lot, I hate goin there. Try surajkund road as an alternate, it still has Aravalli Hills and plus you can drive at 80-100kpmh :D I do it everyday! plus you have a theka every few kms.

Thanatos said...

It's a daily cardiac workout. Eat healthy and you should stay thin forever!