Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Defence!

There are times when you ignore things people say about you or your identity. And there are times when you defend.
As a Delhiite, I have, on most occasions ignored the things people have said about me - some juvenile, some seriously condescending - simply because more often than not it is pointless to argue stereotype. 

I reached home a while back, opened my laptop because I had been out for meetings since lunch, and obviously, happened to login to Facebook too. Noticed a friend's comment on a link posted by one of her friends: City of Sperms. Delhi, of course. I clicked on it out of curiosity, only to get infuriated by the things it mentions. Very articulately derogatory. For me. And for my people. There are some aspects of it which I cannot defend and will not attempt to either, but its perspective stinks. And in my free space I am going to elucidate on an insider's story. 

Without getting into my little but enough-to-form-opinions experience of Bombay or the things about the city that have an equal number of people detesting it too, I will come straight to the point. 

Historically, most major cities across the world have developed around water bodies. New York, London, Moscow, Shanghai, Singapore, etc. At home, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and also Delhi. Port cities for the easy transportation in the olden days, and cities around rivers for easy availability of drinking water. I thought this was common knowledge. However, the greatness of these cities is not because of their advantageous geographical location, but because of their people*. I must not forget though that the article in question mentions that the people of Delhi are a questionable, pretentious lot. I guess I should focus on the people then. 

Delhi, 1947. Monuments left by the Mughals, roads & a few buildings left by the British, and the centre for most of the greats who helped bring in 15th August. Barring the last point, Delhi wasn't too different from some other cities of India. Or maybe it was. There were Indians who didn't know they had become Pakistanis, there were the homeless 'rich', the 'travellers' who did not know of their destination, and there were the scared. 
The scared who managed to hold on are today's Old Delhi with generations-old businesses. The culturally rich generations. The rest of Delhi of '47 began with opportunities in the form of a government. The political will attracted people from disturbed areas to Delhi. The refugees were given homes. Those homes are today's bungalows**. The existent trade channels helped bring up industry as much as they could. 
Khalistan pushed people to Delhi, Kashmiri Pandits on hitlists found recluse in Delhi, the Green Revolution gave neighbouring farmers a market in Delhi, liberalisation gave UP and Bihar an opportunity for much higher daily wages, privatisation and offshoring brought the rest of India to Delhi, Bihar's hard work got appreciated in diplomacy, and of course, the government and politics remained in Delhi. Tch, trade channels. Not exclusive in India. Built. And still exist. Naturally. Organically. Not undeserved. 

Alleged Intellectual Pursuits
The common man in Delhi talks about the weather. It is always too hot, too cold or too humid. It rains too much when not expected. It rains too little when expected. The common man also talks about governance and policy. Heard of that feature of journalism where proximity makes news more interesting? Hmm. The debates on policy take place on the porch that Delhi's homes boast of. And in the college canteens that give students the freedom to discuss what they like, and choose a future that does not result in making hoards of money every month. Where students can enjoy the lectures on Marxist theories and have the option of knowing more about it in a masters or a doctorate course. JNU is a cult. Contemporary culture deceives a visitor of JNU's mind. JNU is not about a meaningless existence or a hip MNC future, but of keeping a school of thought alive which capitalism obviously would not allow to exist. JNU also possibly gives entertainment products like _Capitalism_.
A society is made of layers. Layers of various colours and textures. These layers lend the society a character, a meaning. These layers help in evolution and growth. Layers exist for a reason. Just like vegetarians and carnivores. So, onions being at the heart of all north-Indian dishes are playing an important role. Read about the price issue?

One can always debate the objective and role of media in a democratic state, but The Times of India being quoted as a game-changer in media is a big misrepresentation in my mind. A game-changer in the business of media, yes. Journalism, NO. 

Going back to the layers that Delhi is made of - the city lets you decide whether you want to make money or not. It gives you the opportunity to go to Gurgaon and earn a BMW or make a living out of painting and dancing. It does not throw you off a railway platform for not running the race to earn more money. Or call it a commercially viable existence!

Delhi, like any other part of the world has stood the test of time. It does not become endearing because a loser decides that his city has some related flaws. It does not become hateful because it happens to be home to corrupt politicians. Delhi is beyond labels. It is a lot more than the stereotype.

*Which is why there are numerous cities across the world which are great even in the most challenging geographical terrains. People make a city, not its terrain or climate. 

**Rest of the bungalows belong to rich industrialists and Bollywood stars. Perhaps made for their extended family and extended servants. Perhaps the same in number as those in Bombay. 

P.S. - Didn't Bombay inherit fish? Does it not make millions off it every day? Undeserved? I don't think so. It is distressing to imagine that people like a Manu Joseph talk on behalf of an entire city. A city that minds its own business. Of its contempt for another city of the same country?!
P.P.S. - When did 'sperm' become a dirty word? The art of making normal words sound gross. Appreciation-worthy!

And talking of a crass Jat and the 'thousands like him' is like talking about India and comparing population-based indices with a country like, what, Iceland! Of course there are thousands like him from neighbouring states in a city of over one crore people. About the Jat behaviour, go do some reading!

And I rest my case.


Avantika said...

Respect for your defense.

Akshay said...

The irony is that people do not see how several cities like Delhi have opened their arms to a million others. If those who find its behaviour and its people acrid, repulsing and perplexing its time they avoid the city as a whole.

A city and its people are not like a buffet. You like it all or nothing.

Manu Joseph might be residing in another part of India or even Dubai for that matter. Its important to note that cities do not develop by them selves. As for people like Manu I feel sorry for him and his understanding of people and culture.

Shreya said...

Thank You.

Raja Chandna said...

That guy is just a frustrated mumbaikar , more like those shiv sainiks and MNS guys who think that mumbai is diffrent frm rest of india and people frm UP and Bihar needs visa to visit. Delhi was the best, it is still, and will remain

bLiTz said...

I am from Delhi and I am a Jat. I am proud of neither of these two facts as I realized I did not have anything to do with them.

I do however love Delhi as it is the best city I have ever lived in. Love the people, love the food, love the winters!! (my own opinion)

I do also love Jats in general because of their big hearts and care free attitudes.(And no they are NOT all rowdies)

A perception of a city is always very personal and should be treated as the same. Although if your opinions are based on TV reports, just take care of the fact that TV statistics are usually either misleading or just plain fabricated.

TV channels need desperately to term cities as "unsafe for women" or "corrupt" or "at unrest" and so on as they get an opportunity for making it a "big deal" every time they get one more such news.

For statistics they will never take into consideration important figures like population density, standard of living(unless of course they need these to make their "statistics" sound interesting).

All I would say about the matter is if you want to share your opinion please do so by stating that this is your opinion. Don't be bothered by other people's opinions as we know no city, state or country in the world is perfect.

Choose one for yourself and settle down or go out explore new ones.

Who else is tired of these so called representatives of cities fighting it out between themselves??

Diabolique said...

I have lived in both the cities and what Mr. Joseph says holds true...for both the cities.....Mumbai is as bad as delhi.....Delhi has opened itself to the enterprising, the weak and the not so weak,,but mumbai...the people who survive are those who know people...when has mumbai in fair in giving the oppurtunities to the down...ohhh i forgot...MNS, shiv sena...that is the crux of mumbai.....Words which Mr. Joseph uses are way out of context.....Mumbai has underbelly of Mafia underworld.....Delhi has a history of being built again and agian and again......People in Delhi are large hearted, Mumbaikars are resilient.....its just a perspective of the people .... A city is made by people who live in it....saying that we dont drive people away from our city for coming to earn in our citywe embrace them....My sympathies with Mr. Joseph for proving that He is a dinosuar living in this world and it is people like these who do not understand the culture and heritage that need to be sent back to school for history lessons....

swadha said...

Here's a point.

First, there's a city. And then there are its people. People from a city MAY be undeserving, over privileged or just bad according to someone. But how does an entire city become bad?or undeserving??

I hail from a small town (Varanasi in UP) and have lived in both Mumbai and Delhi...and I REFUSE to compare them. For the simple reason, that I do not believe in the task of over/undermining two cities of my own country. If either of them are not the best choice for living, I'd like to help create them both into better cities, as opposed to being vicious to either.

Mayank said...

yeah been having a non stop battle with my friends upon the same article, manu joseph is a sensationalist stereotyped man. dont take his BS to heart. haters will be haters..

Monica Sood said...

I completely agree with your defence. People like Manu Joseph who believe that "there is a Delhi mental condition which is incurable" are sick. Being a Delhiite, it annoys me why the city and its people are always referred to as pseudo intellectuals or backward 'gawaar', and its women as dumb high maintenance punjabi aunties, by people like Manu Joseph or Jug Suraiya.
Check out this article. How ridiculous to describe the world according to Delhi in that manner...