Special – Crass is the City

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Showing off

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit calls Delhi the “most crass and show-offish city of the current times”.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It’s out, straight out from the horse’s mouth. Delhi’s Chief Minister Ms. Sheila Dikshit has declared Delhi – that mishmash of elbows and impatience – to be the “most crass and show-offish city of the current times”.

Quite true. People here pee on walls, jump the queues, skip the red lights, grope the girls, spit the gutkha, ghoos the cops, shove the sifarish, and dikhao Blackbery. Everyone screams out their lungs to announce their unprintable plans for everyone’s mothers and sisters.

Anything that can go wrong does in this city. Fully-functional traffic lights lead to hour-long jams, delayed appointments, cancelled deals, angry bosses, relationship break-ups, hypertension, mood disorders, and occasionaly all of it ends in a severely upset tummy, known as Delhi Belly.

Two years ago, a Dutch diplomat stationed in the city got so frustrated that he crossed all diplomatic boundaries and called Delhi “filthy” where “everyone interferes with everyone else; the people are a darn nuisance”. Ouch!

“New wealth tends to be universally brash,” says Mr. Pavan K. Varma, author of The Great Indian Middle Class. “In the new hierarchical and prescritive society of India, the mere having of wealth is not important unless you can display it because that display is linked to your ability to polevault those societal prescription”, he says.

Perhaps that’s why buying a Ford becomes necessary, not only to make the commuting comfortable but also to satiate the desire that neighbours too should see it. Mr. Varma, however, cautions that Delhi is not markedly different from other metropoliotan cities except that it is witnessing a great concentration of wealth in a short span of time. Hence the greed and the showing-off. Even Jantar Mantar’s hunger strikes have a snob-and-show value (“What, Nafisa Ali did not come?”).

Nothing really happens in Delhi if it does not happen in your face.

Film maker Mr. Muzaffar Ali has blamed…ahem, films, as one of the reasons for Delhi’s growing crassiness. “Children are being influenced by loud films where there is lot of violence and speeding cars,” he says. “Then there are the new settlers who don’t understand the fabric of the city.”

Does no one loves this poor little rich metropolis of ours? “Folks are working hard, making money and flaunting the wealth. What’s wrong with that? “, says model Ms. Indrani Dasgupta. “Delhi is a great city.”