After the Games: Alok Rai
Guest post by ALOK RAI
I had imagined that there would be time after the Games. Kalmadi and his cronies would have to hang, of course, but it could have been done in a measured fashion. Now, it appears that there is no time to lose. The Shameless One has actually said something about bidding for the Olympics! And with the promise of enough money in the trough, we can expect the pigs to grunt their approval too – just like they did the last time. But in the name of all the people who have been uprooted, and had their livelihoods destroyed; the students who have been thrown out of their hostels; the long-suffering citizenry of Delhi that is currently undergoing the final stage of the insult and humiliation that has been heaped on them over the past year in the name of the Games, I say, enough! Hang the bastards, now!
But I should clarify quickly. I am not so naïve as to be outraged by the corruption. It is the stupidity I am particularly offended by. After all, corruption is only one half of the story. And, frankly, the corruption is hardly surprising. Corruption, to my lay understanding, is the whole point of these large “public” enterprises – it enables the crooks-in-power to get their hands on the money that has been gouged from the poor. That is exactly what everyone expects – the poor victims, the crooked beneficiaries. But surely the stupidity is gratuitous?
I imagine that Delhi’s citizens must each have their own favourite examples of CWG stupidity. Rendering Connaught Place into a World War One battlefield might well be somone’s preferred instance. Someone else might proffer the granite pavements of Khan Market, on which one might have expected well-endowed dowagers to tumble theatrically. Another might suggest the cycle track in Delhi University – which is wide enough to take the cars that use it routinely to escape the vehicular congestion on the now-narrowed road – thereby creating an interestingly suicidal trap for unsuspecting cyclists! But maybe there is a hint there of a certain devilish malicious intelligence, and so perhaps it cannot qualify for the Stupidity Award.
But what about the Rugby Stadium that now rears its ugly form where the charmingly dilapidated University Ground used to be? The University Ground used to be a multifunctional space – apart from the cricket that happened there from time to time, it was used by all and sundry, escaping from cramped living spaces, to walk and to run, to kick a ball about, toss a shuttle-cock… Now, facing the shiny high-tech structure of the main stadium – grotesquely incongruous with the viceregal lodge it now overlooks, is a patch of bright-green rugby pitch – on which, for two days – 11-12 October 2010 – some strangers will wrestle over the possession of a ball that is not even spherical. But the bulk of the former University Ground has been cleared – of trees, of grass, of good earth – and on that cleared space, stadia sit. And in order to accommodate the hundreds of visitors who are no doubt dying to see a rugby match, dozens if not hundreds of trees that once grew behind where the present and hideous Stadium stands, have been cleared, over the protests of large numbers of University professors, in order to make a car park! If we can identify the moron who was responsible for this decision, I have one more candidate for the hangings that must follow the Games.
Follow, please note. The sense of dire urgency is tempered by my awareness of our vaunted traditions of hospitality. We must not upset our guests by any displays of our entirely legitimate rage. The police have in any case been deployed to ensure that there are no unseemly (and, indeed, seemly) displays that can threaten the mood of celebration that is being engineered.The poor have, naturally if somewhat forcefully, been “disappeared”. The beggars removed to “homes” where they have to be, well, incarcerated. No hawkers, no street vendors. The roads have been cleared by threats of fines and of impounding vehicles. Welcome, dear guests, to the City of the Dead!
But after the last plane pulls out and flies into the October sunset, and the soft autumn night begins to fall, let the drums roll. The first gibbets must appear at Vijay Chowk even as the last notes of the farewell sitar are fading – and after that, only the thunder of the drums. The rows of hungry, hungering gibbets march up Raisina Hill, towards the seats of power – whence cometh our despair. And on them, one by one, we must hang the guilty of CWG 2010, Kalmadi, Bhanot, Gill, Reddy… It will be a long list, but it must end with the Disneyesque absurdity Shera, that diabolical plastic imposition with which a deep and ancient culture has been sought to be infantilized. The macabre closing ceremony will run into the small hours of the morning – but it is the only way in which we can bring the nightmare of the Games to closure. And there we must let them hang, twisting slowly in the wind, a grim warning to all those others who cower and conspire in the halls of power, against the very lives of those whom they are charged to serve.
Alok Rai is Professor, Dept of English, University of Delhi