Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Delhi NCR, Then and Now

On the Toll Road
The Toll Road and flyovers all over the National Capital Region promise swift passages, only in the non Rush hours. During rush hours, expect to crawl at five kilometres per hour!
Some of the old, medieval era buildings still exist next and some of them are well lit, thanks to the Common Wealth Games!
While looking back at the Delhi and its surrounding areas and then comparing it with today, about ten years later, one wonders if much has changed. People back then were as restless as they are now, although, the sight of Taow and Tiye trying to cross the  busy thoroughfares was a common sight. Today, they are driven by uniformed drivers in swanky Beamers or Mercs! Pollution was then a problem, and it continues to be a problem even today, what with Delhi being one of the worst or most polluted cities in the world, at least we are good in something or the other! It seems CNG has not been a solution after all. It speaks volumes about how we tackle problems today, we look at one solution and then never really lose sight of it! If CNG and unleaded Benzene were solutions for curbing pollution and green house gases, then did we think about supporting factors like, removing bottle necks, ensuring optimum movement of vehicles, installing traffic signals, monitoring pollution checking centres (These mushroomed all over the place, and some even to this day don’t use a sensor to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted  from the exhaust pipe), and building up of supporting roads. We were then so obsessed with CNG, we thought it was the solution to all our problems arising out of the production of smoking vehicles. What happened was that we bought ourselves those swanky green and red buses with engines at the back, buses that have automated gearshifts, buses that  are so low floor that even a baby could board them. But then alas! The manufacturers forgot that  the height of some of the speed breakers exceeds prescribed limits and that if you are travelling from Gurgaon to Sohna down Sohna Road, don’t SUV, for bottom scraping seems to be the favourite pass time of those who would like to bring those flashy vehicles to a screeching halt and a satisfying thud as the  bottom hits the bump!

You are not driving this one on the road to Sohna from Gurgaon, there are no guarantees that the bottom will not fall off after passing over a couple of those ‘Tailor made  speed brakers’!
2013-04-03 15.43.40
You have heard of the Bat mobile, but then have you come across the Sugar cane juice mobiles? Well, you see one in the snap! Sure, we have come a long way from the early nineties!
Back then, in the good old days we had ‘red terror’ in the form of those red coloured private city buses plying on the roads of Delhi. Some of the drivers of those buses would have put the Schumachers to shame what with their manoeuvrings and over takings, it seemed to me a great wonder as to how such huge vehicles could fly so fast. And then came the Blue Lines, these were supposed to be tamer versions of the Red Lines, someone obsessed with colours had probably sounded warning bells about how red was the colour of danger and that perhaps changing the colour of the buses to blue, the colour of the sky would reduce the number of accidents taking place. Well changing the colour of the buses did nothing to reduce the number of accidents on the roads of Delhi, and the colour blue did nothing to dampen the fiery spirit of the “Pilots flying the buses” on runways meant for lesser beings!
People continue to park their vehicles in front of main gates, even when the sign says, “No Parking in Front of the Gate!” I guess bigger cars and better connectivity cannot change one’s mentality!
Those were the days when travelling in those ubiquitous Haryana Roadways buses, packed like sardines was the norm! Back then you hung on for dear life to the overhead rail somehow blocking your nose to the pungent scents flying at you from the damp armpits of the gentleman next to you! In some cases there would be someone poking his nose into that damp cellar of trapped dreams and musty odours, and then, while you were thinking about a nice bath after the ordeal, would come that heart-stopping gut-wrenching application of brakes that would catapult  you into the lap of the lady dozing on the seat next to you! You hopped back to your place before she woke from her (“pretended”) deep sleep and began to wipe your brows with the already soiled handkerchief. Back then it was all about “adjustments” so even if you were sitting on a seat meant for three, counting your lucky stars, in came a cheerful lady who asked you to shift a little, and just as you shifted a little, in came a little child, and along with the child a bag which she plonked on to the space between your seat and the back rest of the next. In those days there was a lot of chivalry, there was a lot of romance on such tightly packed buses, and yes there was also a lot of physical intimacy, too, between strangers of both genders! It was a very, “Feeling” of society that you got in those buses. Those buses have today given way to the Delhi Metro, air-conditioned trains that sweep overhead motorists stuck in traffic jams, the trains were supposed to be game changers to the problem of shifting large masses of people from one point to another. I don’t travel much by the metro because my place of work is now closer to my residence. But then, my friends and wife tell me, nothing much has changed, the trains are as crowded as the Haryana Roadways buses used to be once upon a time, and you still get a whiff of the musty odours drifting from the depths of armpits. The “Feeling” culture can be seen while travelling in the Metro, they tell me. A large number of Romances take root in the metro trains of today, and these romances blossom into full blown instances of intimacy which are meant to be private, but then why don’t you mind your own business and look somewhere else if the couple ahead of you are making up! Who says we are an agrarian society, looking at the swanky dresses, one can get a bird’s eye view into the latest in fashion trends, and don’t worry, the cost of the dress is inversely proportional to the amount of fabric, but then who minds, if you might have some “Eye Candy” while relaxing in the comfort of an air-conditioned sound-proof cabin of a swanky train running over the heads of those trying to make headway on the choked road below! Some time back, I was at a Metro Station and  avoided boarding the train to Gurgaon looking at the long snaking line of people eager to board it. My brother scolded me and told me that all I had to do was to place myself strategically in the line and ‘ManPower” would do the rest, picking me up and wafting me into the cabin, so what if you lost one of your shoes on the way, trust me, it will accompany you right back  into the cabin, you have simply got to trust in “ManPower!”
You still come across an assortment of vehicle types plying on the roads, and yes you might even come across the strangest of cargos!

Looking at those years gone by and comparing them with the days going by, it is difficult to see how  things have changed. The Gurgaon Mall Mile on MG Road opened with  a bang! One of the shopkeepers from whom I bought provisions once told me that I could get almost everything under one roof, I only had to go in my, underclothes.The foot fall has however decreased since the days when the malls opened. A large number of them have shut shop, Subhiksha, Arcus, Times Out, Landmark, and so on. People seem to prefer going to the local vegetable vendors rather than spend a whole day stuck on a busy road leading to the Mall, only to be told that the parking is full. In the days gone by, you visited super bazaar at Connaught place, or visited Palika Bazaar for stuff that might me foreign, or you just went window shopping looking at the ware displayed in showcases of the windows of some of the exclusive shops in  Connaught Place having a Choc Bar or two. We went window shopping then, and we go window shopping today, the only difference then was that you had limited cash  but today you have unlimited credit! Beware the lure of the credit system today, it is better that you leave plastic at home, or if you are in good financial security, then you might think of fixing a limit on your spend, for so they said that shopping was the best stress buster of the day, and I assure you that it still is! Little has changed from the days when your buying capacity was limited to the bills you had in your bill fold! But then while I pass by Palika Bazaar and the colonial structure of the shops in the inner circle of Connaught place, I can’t help but smile of the days when each little object you bought took a lot of consideration, and haggling was an art, what if my brother was fobbed off by a 16 GB pen drive which didn’t work at home, but then it was OK since he had been lighter by three hundred or so Rupees! The one biggest difference between then and now is that Propaganda Techniques have gained a foothold thus, it is economically healthy if you exchange your six months old mobile phone for an upgraded version since electronic items become obsolete in a matter of months! In those days you bought things for keeps and sentimental value. You just couldn’t think of selling off that Ambassador or Fiat or that Chetak that you had saved for, because, you bought those things with hard earned cash! Today, however, you live in the “use and throw” age, a time when you things just because your credit rating allows you to do so!
Sights such as these are common all over the region. In the earlier days you had the toy seller who sold an assortment of  toys hanging from a wooden frame that he carried on his shoulder!
Water bottles? No Problem, the neighbourhood water service provider will supply you with required drinking water. Water shortage has begun to worsen these days, what with increased demand and reduced supply.
So then where did you take your lady love for an outing in those times., well, the rides at Appu Ghar in Delhi cave you and your beloved a closeness that was second to none! The My Fair Lady in that pleasure park literally squashed you together. And if your felt a little hungry, then the Maharaja joint at Janpath, or the India Coffee home in Connaught Place, or the eateries at Madras Hotel could fill many a famished tummies, and if you thought you enjoyed coffee, if only to extend the time you spent with her, then you could have thought of ordering yet another cup and made it last as long as possible! Today there is no Appu Ghar in Delhi, and the best choice would be to go to the neighbour hood mall with a PVR thrown in for that romantic movie to watch – forget about going to Ritz or Odeon or Golcha! Of course, you need to carry good money with you although the services of the credit card company will help to pay for the lunch or dinner, accompanied by that expensive gift from the exclusive shop, and the ‘Couple Movie Ticket” thrown in. Yes it was cheaper to romance in the early nineties than it is today! In those days it was OK if you took her around on your scooter, but today, the weather being so hot, nothing less than a car with a running AC will do. But then you could fill up the tank with that card, and sure it makes sense to fill the tank after all you never know, you might as well go on a pleasure trip all over the area! Kamla Nagar and Bungalow were then the best places to shop for garments and fancy jewellery items. They still are, and you get the latest college ready garments too. So if she expresses a desire to shop for footwear and garments, the best places are and were Kholapur Road, Bungalow Road, and Kamla Nagar in North Delhi, besides Sarojini Nagar, Janpath and Lajpat Nagar continue to favoured haunts for bargain hunters! Parking in these places has become easier with the multi-level parking facilities. 
It makes sense to park your vehicle at one of the multi-level parking areas, it is convenient, safer, and saves time!
Still Life with Frooti
The busiest of all market places always have something to refresh you and bring back the energy after all that shopping!
Hungry Kya? Fried Rice and Manchurian are served piping hot right in the middle of the street! What a way to end a hectic day of shopping!
I guess, there has really not been too much of a change in people’s attitudes for a a whole decade. We continue to litter the streets with trash, we like breaking traffic rules, enjoy shopping at flea markets, and love to have that unhygienic Choosky. The slogan in the first photograph posted by me reads, “Abh Badlega Game”, but then how and when the game will change is yet to make itself visible. The game might have changed, but then the change has been too slow and too little! What we need to do is to change our attitudes, we need to take greater responsibility as citizens living in the National Capital Region of Delhi.

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