Posts Tagged ‘Delhi’

26
Nov

Punjab Today: The danger of renaming a college

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

Friends, I put up a Facebook post on the right wing move to rename the Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia college in Delhi. A news and views website I refer to often, run by Kanwar Manjit Singh, decided to choose it for the website.

Thank you. Please see here…

 

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4
Aug

Tea in Mud Cups

   Posted by: aman    in Other

At the entrance to Jungpura from Hospital Road, Ram Jagrit Lal stands under a mud coloured tarpaulin behind a red cart. He used to be our neighbourhood’s favourite cigarette-walla. Then the police struck, owing to the Saint Paul school nearby he went out of business. “I will be back Sa’ab, just one or two days’, he assured all his customers those days, six months ago.

He stayed unshaven, unkempt. He did not know what had hit him. He would park his old grey Bajaj Chetak scooter near the stall, its glove compartment shut but not locked. On being asked for a cigarette he would dip his hand in and quickly pass out the pack, pocket the money without counting. All of this sneakily, not wanting the police constable to notice.

‘Why do you not shift 100 meters away?’ I asked him.

‘I have paid for this place.’

‘Paid whom?’

‘Government. They gave me this place for bijness.’

‘Government?’

‘Yes I paid tax. In the MCD. I make regular payment.’

‘And police?’

‘They too.’ He did not pay the government any tax. He paid someone a bribe in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi but he did not care to know the difference. It was money gone.

‘So won’t they give you a new stand?’ He shrugs his tired shoulders. ‘What will you do now?’

‘Kuch karenge Sa’ab. This business was wrong. Even I don’t smoke. How can I sell poison?’

The two days stretched. I stopped going to him. The local, bigger, store started stacking cigarettes. It’s owner remarked, ‘Ram ji’s customers come to us. I feel sorry for him. But my business has picked up.’

Ram ji kept his place but changed his business. He started keeping a stove and a pan. ‘I will make tea,’ he said with a smile. But he still looked haggard. His tea too was no match to Mahender, the guy on the other side on Mosque Road or even the Chottu at the auto-stand. Ram ji’s son too stopped coming to the shop. A few months later, when I passed by his stall I waved to him. He looked much better, a clean shirt, hair combed. That evening I went up to him for a glass of tea. Just for old times sake.

His tea was so different! It smelled of cardamom, tasted of ginger. He looked at me and smiled. ‘Sa’ab, I had never made tea in my home. How could I make it here? But I learnt. Now tell me, how is it?’ It was the best tea on the street. Why? It is one of the finer teas I have tasted.

‘So, do people come now?’

‘Yes, they are coming back. See me in the winters.’

‘What will you do?’

‘Bring in an angeethi (mud fireplace), a mud vessel to boil the milk, even mud cups for tea.’

‘Aha?’

‘Yes, once one has four people standing near the angeethi in the cold, others will automatically come.’ He says assured. His business is picking up. ‘No wastage of milk now’.

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3
Dec

Dilli Dilwalon Ki

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Peak hour traffic on Nizammudin Bridge. Vehicles backed up. We inched closer. Cursing, honking, braking, guarding our priceless cars from the car, bike, cycle, tractor, auto-rickshaw next to us. I saw my watch: a one minute drive had taken twenty. I was in no mood to reconcile. Get to Ashram lights and speed out on the Ring Road. Gosh! I came to Delhi to escape Bangalore traffic. This is worse.

As I neared the point of the snarl I saw a battered, huge, old Delhi Water Board tanker in the middle of the road. The rest of the traffic was going around it. Behind the tanker were at least fifteen school kids, huffing and pushing. I saw it for a few good minutes. The cars around it were making a beeline to squeeze between the road divider and the tanker.

Suddenly, the tanker spurted to life, groaned. It moved a bit on its own engine. The delicate hands started leaving the tanker’s back. Its wheels started acquiring a life. Out, from the driver’s side, jumped a Sardarji. He had a maroon turban, was in a cream shirt and brown trousers. He was wearing sun glasses and had tied up his beard with a strip of cloth, to set its hair. I could hardly see his face, but his cheeks were shining, turning red in the sun. His lips were turned into a broad smile. His arms were raised above his head, his hands were folded in a Namaste. That is all he did, stand on the road, give thanks, while the tanker engine warmed up.

The children cheered and moved away; the tanker started and the Sardarji vanished into it. They moved away. The warmth of the gesture purged my frustration at being held up on the road.

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12
Jul

No overnights please

   Posted by: aman    in Other

When I was to start for Delhi from Bangalore, a year back, I asked my friend Aditya to help me find a place to live. He offered me his flat in Indirapuram. I shifted, set up the flat and started my life in Delhi. Slowly I realised that though Indirapuram is next to Noida, and my office is on the other end of Noida, it takes me up to an hour to reach office. I have to cross two urban villages, and a number of red lights. The traffic is chaotic. Through the year when I went to meet friends in Delhi from office, through the Taj Expressway and the DND toll bridge, I reached Ashram in half an hour.

When I met people in Delhi and told them I lived in Indirapuram, they said, ‘Indirapuram, where?’ When I came home from Delhi, at 11 PM, 11.30 PM, I still got stuck at the Gazipur border on National Highway 24 for up to half an hour. Indirapuram is a concrete colony. A corporate ghetto. Current fails here so often that one cannot even watch videos on a website like YouTube in peace, forget downloading anything. One morning, I argued with the owner of the dairy booth in my complex. The milk had not arrived until 8 AM. He said, ‘If you want milk early live in Delhi.’ That is when it hit me that I did not really live in Delhi. Indirapuram was not Delhi, at least not perceived to be part of Delhi.

I have started my hunt for a small place in Delhi, some where 10 minutes from Ashram. Technically, according to people who live in Golf Links and Hauz Khas, even that is not Delhi. Too far, they say. A friend suggested web sites. Yet, when I search for individual postings on 99acres.com or magicbricks.com, I find no listings. All listings pint to brokers. So brokers is the way I go.

‘Sir, can you make a visit to a site on your own? Our New friends Colony area manager is busy today,’ asks a voice from one of the real estate agents.

‘Yes, sure,’ I say.

‘Can you talk to the house owner now? He wants to speak to you. I’ll conference you.’

My, I thought. Is this a real estate agency or a Multi National Company? Area Managers and Conference Calls. ‘Yeah sure.’

An old voice comes up on the other side, ‘I do not understand your company name. Who is the head of the company? What does it do?’

‘Cadence Design Systems. We are an EDA company,’ I reply. Thinking I must say we help make the chips which runs the telephone from which you are speaking.

‘Where is it located?’

‘San Jose,’ I say, stressing the J as an H.

‘Where?’

‘California. USA.’

‘Who is the head?’

‘A certain Lip Bu Tan.’

‘Who?’

‘A Singaporean immigrant to the United States.’

‘Oh American company.’

I wonder to myself if it is me who is going to stay there or Mr. Lip Bu Tan. The agent gives me the address. I go visit.

A posh house in a posh locality. Statues of Ganesha and Sai Baba in the garden. A man ushers me to garden seats. The man sits down. His father, the old man comes out and takes another seat.

‘What does your company do?’

I tell the man. ‘EDA stands for Electronic Design Automation. We make software that helps companies design chips which are used in everything: mobile phones and super computers.’

They do not understand.

‘Your name is Aman. What is your religion?’

‘Does it matter?’

‘Your father. What does he do?’

‘He is with God.’

‘Your mother?’

‘She too is with God.’

‘Brothers and sisters?’

‘They never came down from God.’

‘Oh! How old are you?’

’36.’

The man showed me the shabby room, with pink tiles in the bathroom.

‘What is the rent?’

‘Actually, with the Commonwealth Games coming up, we were looking for a foreigner. Someone younger.’

And hotter, I thought to myself.

‘Would you stay alone?’

‘Yes.’

‘No friends please, no overnights.’

I smiled and said, ‘Do not worry. I do not have a hectic social life.’

I left, knowing prejudice exists in many forms.

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7
Jul

Halla Bol!

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Soon after I finished my formal studies at my university I stopped going for public meetings, protests, morchas and dharnas. I believed in protest, but was caught too deeply in the work life, and by the time I could strike a work-life balance, I had started writing my novels. My novels are protest pieces, because I believe that within an individual lies the site of protest. I might be over generalising, but it is through an individual that I find the scope to create space for an individual’s thinking which might be contrary to a world view. Hence it is a protest.

When I received an invite to the 2009 Queer Pride parade in Delhi I was not sure whether I should go or not. I thought it was on a Saturday, a day I had reserved for my own work. Then the friend called and reminded me that it was on a Sunday. I was elated. I decided to go. For long I have believed that Gays and Lesbians, Bi-sexuals, Trans-gendered and Trans-sexual people are like us, in fact in many cases sharper and more sensitive because they have had to survive on the other side of the stigma that the society has imposed upon them.

I had just been a few minutes at the parade when the organisers unfurled a long, multi-coloured cloth, the symbol of the movement – the rainbow. When I was a child, on summer nights, my father, mother, and I used to sleep outdoors in the garden. Some times it would start to rain in the middle of the night. We would rush indoors but I would insist that my father and mother open a turban, hold its open ends in their two hands to make a canopy, and I would proudly walk under it. I would imagine I was a king, and my procession would wind its way through the small hedges and brick paths to reach my palace, my home.

When the rainbow was unfurled on Tolstoy Marg I remembered the protection that I used to seek under the turban canopy of my childhood. The rainbow seemed to be like that, a cover under which each person was free to be, free to choose how to live, free to dream, and be accepted. It took me a while to muster my courage to walk under it. But I did walk, it was my baptism, in the midst of a cheering and dancing crowd, I alone walked under the curtain. No one noticed me, no one knew it was my baptism, but when I emerged from under it a banner stared me in my face: walk together, to walk alone.

It was a lovely parade.

Most parades that I have attended in life have been sombre affairs. A tragedy occurs and people protest for rights, for redressal. In this parade, an ongoing tragedy is unfurling, but everyone was dancing, chanting slogans, talking with each other, and laughing. The police was extremely polite. A wonder. All my life I have heard the police abuse criminals and offenders by using terms which stood for all the labels by which people in this parade are known. They are ugly words, bristling with prejudice: chakka, gandu, and such. Yet, that day, when those who are known by those words, were out in a demonstration of their being together, the police was so polite towards us, only requesting us to speed up and not block traffic on Janpath.

What an inversion of power, I thought.

Soon after, the Delhi High Court scrapped Article 377, which mentioned homosexuality as a crime, and treated LGBTI people as criminals, use the law to arrest, prosecute, terrorize and blackmail sexual minorities. I recently read that 2 to 13 percent of India’s population might be gay, or interested in gay rights. That means the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex people are a prominent vote bank. No wonder Indian politicians are reluctant to voice their opinion against the community. Cheers! Queer pride has arrived, and it is here to stay.

I enjoyed myself at the parade. Come next year. It is fun.

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