Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Independent in the Capital

"Capital Independence!" I like to call it!...not just because its my first independence day in Delhi, but also its the first time I find myself staying away from home on independence day. My memories consist mostly of speeches during school parade, flag hoisting, watching celebrations on tv , even long back and a long distance away in Africa when I would wake up early with my ex-navy father to watch the flag hoisting on Doordarshan...yeah, we get it in Uganda too!

Yet, why do I feel strangely uneasy about the actual independent India i am in, is it because we've been fed on ideoligies that are long dead and gone?...the freedom struggle, silent resistance, equality for all???

As much as I should be feeling over awed to finally be in my beloved country's capital, it is ironic that, the hypocrisy of the term independent India hits me hard more so when I am here. Why is the caste divide so evident even in the Capital of my magnificent country, why do some people stick to menial jobs for generations, why do some people think they are too evolved to smile at the common folk?

August 15th was spent mostly indoors, with the blasts in Surat and Ahmedabad, most people preferred the safe , hazy hallucination of their tv sets inside locked doors.

With freedom comes responsibilty, well said, but hardly practiced, this independence day, i took a walk in the evening, from my room through the nearby deer park and around Hauz Khas village.

As I stepped out, it was amazing to see the tri-colored kites dotting the sky, I was happy....but that was shortlived, I soon happened upon a common sight in our streets, a human scavenger, next to a garbage bin, he looked like he had found the days meal. I could'nt help but feel a pang of guilt,I looked down at my nike sneakers... and tried to justify it ..."survival of the fittest..devan"...I said to myself...sure, I know, the argument goes that our government has more than enough schemes for the underpreveliged, we have ways of helping them, sure.

But, my mind wandered... I happened on a newstand, a state minister was on the covers, apparently, she requires a neighbourhood golf course as a helipad....hmm....wonder if the people who vote for such politicians are to blame more than the politicians themselves...disinterested and now feeling slightly less euphoric about my new found independence... I decided to go into the naked ruins of the Hauz Khas fort, probably antiquity and the surrounding nature would surely cure my increasing disenchantment.

Walking through the deer park, it was great to see the magnificent males with branching antlers walk without a care as meek females gracefully roamed with a few playful fawns jumping about..., no politics, no poverty, no discrimination, in the animal world, there is an invisible sense of togetherness, of community...I picked up a bunch of grass and passed it through the wire fence to a more friendly young deer, he was hesitant but eventually took the leaves and munched he turned for more, the barbed wire grazed his nose and he lept away , the fencing around the deer enclosure was now more evident to me, such graceful animals, surviving ...but in captivity...I walked on..

The ruins of the forts in Delhi are always time warping, they take me to another world, where lines from William Dalrymple's "The last Mughal" come alive, I imagine servants hurrying about, serving elegant princes getting ready for a hunting expedition, walking through the maze of massive brick walls and dark corridors alone takes you into another dimension...turning a corner, I bumped into an embarrassed couple, unable to withhold the taste of un-supervised togetherness,after all, stolen kisses are the sweetest they say...independent India, the nation was busy indeed today...

Outside , in the park surrounding the huge "royal tank" built by Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316) who excavated a large water body here for the use of the inhabitants of Siri, the nature was comforting, till i saw a little boy, selling sweets...probably a school holiday for him today I thought...I hoped....

I could see a broken kite next to him, with the tri-colors on it.