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After the Games: Alok Rai

October 13, 2010

Shera

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

30 Comments leave one →
  1. October 13, 2010 10:59 PM

    I have a question for Alok Rai. What can we do to make you write more often – at least once a fortnight. Is there any प्रेरणा, लोभ, जालसाज़ी that one can resort to so that Alok Rai writes more such?

    • Ahmer permalink
      October 15, 2010 1:20 PM

      Dear Shivam,

      If you need help in executing anything that will get Alok to write, am the person to get in touch with.

  2. Shahzad Ahmad permalink
    October 14, 2010 12:35 AM

    WOW what a piece of writing Sir.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. Wish I could study English in your university under your kind guidance :)

    Lots of love from Pakistan.

  3. October 14, 2010 2:56 AM

    और जगह की बात नहीं करके विश्वविद्यालय की बात करे तो बहुत क्षोभ और दुःख होता है. स्टेडियम के लिए एक नर्सरी उजाड दी गयी, हास्टल से निकाले छात्र परेशान है, चौड़ी सडको पर आये दिन जाम लगते है. खैर…उन गमलों का क्या होगा जो सजावट के लिए लगाये गए है? कलमाडी और उनकी टीम प्रतिक के तौर पर उन्हे घर ले जाये अपने.

  4. Mridu Rai permalink
    October 14, 2010 7:59 AM

    Frankly I think hanging is too good for them; wouldn’t impaling be better, or boiling in hot oil, or drawing and quartering, or skinning them alive and then shell with straw to be left hanging as an example to all on Raisina Hill and Janpath Road and Ashoka Road and wherever else they burrow? Too gruesome? Ok if hanging it must be, perhaps we could engineer an accidental-on-purpose botched hanging with its unpretty consequences experienced by the hangee. In any case, we must have the following two caveats (1) let the “garlanding” of the first noose be the privilege of the forcibly disappeared and the evacuated (2) let’s make sure the making of the gibbets, the rope, trapdoor and other hanging paraphernalia is not contracted out to the folks who built the facilities for the CWG.

    Thanks for the great piece and for a chance to at least dream a gory comeuppance for the perpetrators of such monumental stupidity.

  5. October 14, 2010 11:23 AM

    There is a tenor in your voice here, of hopeful terror awaiting those that terrorise; for those who displace and diracinate, who celebrate in their macabre coagulation of power and greed, who infantilize us with their sardonic offerings of rightful culture, who seek to (and succeed at) create absurd rhythms of authoritarian consent.

    And beyond it all is sheer tomfoolery.

    It is rightful indignation, and it is now beyond the stage of indignity. As the sun sets mercifully over these events, I hope pieces like yours will, at least in the immediate tomorrow that is to come, serve as a reckoner to all of us, lest we forget. For if there is a bigger crime commitable, it is this, our collective forgetting.

    I’m another creature in search of the peaceful shades that once guarded against the fowl emanations from our seats of power. There is grief here, and there is avidity born of existential (and financially endowed ?) vacuousness. It waits to be seen how much we will destroy and uproot, and if not these, then, hide behind monstrosities of purple and plastic.

    As the world’s pigs come to this corner of the trough to feed, and proclaim their two-pence worth of false praise before they depart, my head spins and my heart goes into a tizzy. I do sincerely hope we Come Out and Play. With pincers and pillories. And for those amongst us with kinder hearts and no taste for foul blood, I hope to god we will not forget.

    Thank you for your timely piece.

  6. Taha Siddiqui permalink
    October 14, 2010 11:52 AM

    amazing , hard hitting piece of writing!

  7. shama zaidi permalink
    October 14, 2010 3:10 PM

    patriotic citizens of pune are requested to show black flags to suresh kalmadi and never never vote for him again. the best thing would be to shave his head and blacken his face and parade him around town on a donkey.

  8. suresh permalink
    October 14, 2010 4:24 PM

    The stupidity that you portray so vividly is hardly new. In the days when visiting heads of state travelled by road from Palam Airport to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the best indicator that someone was coming was the erection of bamboo curtains to shield the sensitive foreign eyes (so different from Indian eyes) from Indian realities. The attempt to rid Delhi of hawkers and beggars is squarely in the tradition pioneered by Sanjay Gandhi and Jagmohan among others. The tradition of giving free tickets to fill stadiums follows the grand tradition of “renting crowds” for political rallies.

    Why was Kalmadi and co. even allowed to submit a bid to host the CWG? Wasn’t this a criminal waste of public money? Why blame Kalmadi and co. when “we” agreed with their original crime? We can certainly hang [metaphorically] Kalmadi, Gill, Bhanot and co., but I am afraid that will only bring up the likes of Sharad Pawar and Arun Jaitley. The stupidity that only we seem capable of is supported by an entire system and a glorious tradition.

  9. Satya Sagar permalink
    October 14, 2010 4:35 PM

    A fine piece indeed. Hanging Kalmadi and gang though might be a bit difficult given the paucity of trees in the city now. Maybe the basketball courts can suffice for the purpose.

    Another important reason why they should all be hanged is for the way they have ensured all mega-corruption in the country is once again concentrated in the national capital New Delhi. As if there is no one else waiting to be corrupt in Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad etc., Why should all the revenues of the Govt. of India repeatedly leak into the pockets of brokers and pimps in Delhi alone? In a democracy should there not be a decentralisation of corruption? By hogging all the loot in this manner Kalmadi and company have struck at the very idea of India as a federation.

    A fitting denouement to the sordid CWG affair now would be for the rest of India to throw Delhi out of the Indian union altogether. To me, the capital surely seems totally self-sufficient with a parliament of its own, a president, a Delhi-centric media and enough goons to protect it from the ‘foreigners’ of Bihar and Tamil Nadu. There is no need for it to continue carrying the ‘burden’ of the rest of India at all.

    For the rest of us who come from outside the capital it will be a major relief to see Delhi go. Maybe this will spell the end of separatist movements in Kashmir and the North-East too.

    Instead of fighting for independence from Delhi we need to fight for the independence OF Delhi and get rid off this miserable rump of the Mughal and British imperial past once and for all. The slogan of the future should be ‘Dilli Bhaago’ instead of ‘Dilli Chalo’!

    • Prayash Giria permalink
      October 16, 2010 11:36 AM

      Mr. Satya Sagar, your intent is admirable, but do you realize your words insult almost 15 million Delhi-ites who work equally hard for their living? And that most of them worked hard to reach the city from wherever they hailed?

      Otherwise I whole heartedly agree with your concept of “Dilli Bhaago”. If people outside my city share the same mentality, then I’m better off without them. It is perfectly acceptable for you to voice your concerns but do nothing about the same, but because a city can and does do that, you target its ability. Isn’t that as selfish as the city you despise?

      Foreigners? Mr. Satya Sagar, do you realize that Delhi IS a city of ‘foreigners’ by your own definition, almost all of the citizens being first, second or third generation migrants? It is in Bombay that non-marathis are attacked, in Chennai that non-tamils are made fun of and in Calcutta that non-bengalis are considered below par. Delhi has always been a melting-pot where different communities have melded together and been so since independence. I would like to see one case of a working and earning Delhi-ite thrown out by ‘goons’ because of his birth-state. Don’t accuse Delhi of being a Xenophobe like yourself, I assure you, the city is not.

      I suggest you get you political geography corrected. Corruption is already decentralised, and the city is far less corrupt than our counterparts in so many other states, where the local governments work hand in hand with the very systems that detriment it.

      I quote from Atlas Shrugged, “I’m the safest person for you to spit on, precisely because I hold you by the neck.” Imagine for one day, an India without a Delhi – Delhi will survive, you agree to that fact, but in exchange for your decentralization incentive (which is redundant in the first place) are you actually asking for derailing the economy of Northern India? Knocking out its transport and cultural hub? Your intent may be admirable, but you do need to think before you write.

    • Anand Prakash permalink
      October 17, 2010 11:32 AM

      Giriaji, Have you heard of something called figures of speech? have you heard of irony, atiranjana or atishyokti alankar, of sarcasm and such other genres of speech and writing? It is indeed remarkable how some people get ‘insulted’ at the drop of a hat. Most often because they have never read or understood poetry where such forms are routinely taken recourse to. ‘Hang the bastards’ does not mean hang them literally nor ‘throw Delhi out of India’ (do you think that is possible literally?). And if my guess is right, Satya Sagar would actually share every bit of what you say about Delhi being a city of ‘foreigners'(after all he says of himself “those of us who have come from outside”). So your lessons in geography or political geography may be out of place. Perhaps, it is you who needs to think a bit before writing.

    • Prayash Giria permalink
      October 17, 2010 9:25 PM

      I’m really sorry if I interpreted the comment incorrectly. Please accept my apologies, but even after re-re-reading the comment, I really can’t relate to the ‘figures of speech’ in question, or I can’t appreciate the ‘poetry’ Mr. Satya has attempted. I think I do need to think more. :)

      If Mr. Satya is indeed saying what you say he is, then I apologize wholeheartedly for my touchiness.

  10. tara permalink
    October 14, 2010 7:50 PM

    i do not watch tv. i care a damn for the closing ceremony’s tacky empty falsely patriotic pomp. but i’d watch (and gladly take part) in mr rai’s revolution.

    brilliant piece.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/51931638@N07/

    • Mridu Rai permalink
      October 14, 2010 9:18 PM

      Not to be nitpicky, but it’s Ms. Rai. But, yes, do let’s form a hanging party.

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      October 15, 2010 8:35 AM

      Mridu, I think the comment refers to ‘mr’ alok rai!

    • Mridu Rai permalink
      October 15, 2010 9:53 AM

      Thanks, Nivedita. Apologies for presuming and I shall take the egg on my face.

    • tara g permalink
      October 19, 2010 1:41 PM

      yes – apologies, i should have specified i meant the author..

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      October 19, 2010 4:08 PM

      No big deal :)

  11. radhika menon permalink
    October 15, 2010 12:58 AM

    while hang they must , who stole the bread and force fed Delhi confetti ,
    the Kalmadis , Gills and and Reddys are only the muscle men of this rowdy party….
    The Bidding for CWG was done by NDA after adequate bribing, while UPA hammered, cobbled and tiled up the people of Delhi, after emptying their pockets, so that imaginary visitors and ruling elite of this city could stamp and trod on them. And they all sat and watched the ceremonies with much police protection. Hand them all over and hang them too.

    Bidding for Olympics is the second ‘antara’ of the new anthem of urban development policy. The Kalmadis are the sheras who sing this tune . Without hanging the lyricist, composer and music directors of this wretched politics and economics , we can continue to expect an extended rule by Disneyisque characters who rule with Hitler’s touch.

  12. Supriya Chaudhuri permalink
    October 15, 2010 5:03 AM

    More power to your pen, Alok! Rarely have I read something with which I agreed more. I’m deeply offended by the way in which the news channels exult in the glittering ‘makeover’ Delhi’s received, while the rest of the country continues in outer darkness. Sport itself has gained very little — how many sportspeople will use Delhi’s new stadia?

  13. Sunalini permalink
    October 15, 2010 9:30 AM

    Uff, brilliant brilliant brilliant, Alok Rai! And now that the media is predictably hysterical in its celebration of a successfully completed Games (‘Delhightful’ – says Indian Express in its salivating headline today) can we hang them too? I worry we don’t have enough rope.

  14. Neha Saini permalink
    October 15, 2010 8:49 PM

    A masterpiece indeed! Witty, sarcastic & straightforward… cudnt agree more! The “transformation” of Delhi could have been done in a little less thoughtless manner. Delhi lost a major part of its real essence in may ways and dimensions, not to mention the amount of money.
    This article creates waves in mind and heart.
    Hang them! And let serenity, transparency and honesty prevail!
    P.S. Looking forward to read more of Alok Rai :)

  15. Subash permalink
    October 15, 2010 10:59 PM

    How can anybody be hanged. These OC are such experts that no govt. agency (and only govt. agencies are entitled to probe) would be able to get any proof. Dont take them to be fools because they have perfected a system which has managed to send out uncountable crores to the Swiss banks. Its a process that has been perfected over 50 years. And remember the Liberhan Commision which was given 3 months to bring out a report and took 16 years. The best we can hope for from a probe which may last 3 years that they would give all involved a clean chit.

  16. rahul permalink
    October 16, 2010 6:39 AM

    Excellent! Its refreshing to read such a well-written article on CWG which addresses corruption but makes a larger point. However i wish these sentiments would also take note of the massive expenditure undertaken by Mayawati in building parks and statues for herself and Dalit icons. Maybe that is okay because these structures are empowering to the Dalits and the downtrodden, unlike the CWG? Its almost next to impossible to enter these parks and interview the labourers, many of them live in pathetic conditions similar to CWG workers. Almost all of them are underpaid and work for long hours. And they have been living like that for many years now. It would really be interesting what activist and intellectuals ike alok rai and others opinion is on this issue. I am raising this not to undermine the critique of CWG which many friends have brilliantly made here and please donot take it as an upper caste mans hate and cynicism towards Mayawati and therefore Dalits politics.

  17. Prayash Giria permalink
    October 16, 2010 11:17 AM

    I agree with Mr. Rai’s view that the stupidity shown in the games is both unpardonable and unfathomable.

    But I do feel the point of being a critic is being able to offer innovative solutions to what they criticize, and from what I’ve read, Mr. Rai has been a bit too involved in his vehemence.

    Before anybody comments, let me clarify that I am an architecture student who has lived all his life in Delhi and uses the buses and metros and footpaths daily to reach his college at ITO from Roop Nagar (which, incidentally, neighbours the North Campus district which Mr. Rai constantly refers to), and I’ve attended a couple of games events to boot. I can safely assume that this backing alone should give my review of things a basic pedigree.

    I walk from home to the bus-stop, and now I’m glad that cars have a lesser chance of murdering pedestrians than before. The cycle lane is a boon. Mr. Rai fails to realize that it is the width of a dual way carriage that enables two rickshaws to pass, but make it thinner and he’d be the first to scream about the stupidity once again – undoubtedly it must be his own chauffeur who ran his car through the lane to avoid congestion. The Khan Market spill was nasty, but then people used to complain that the priciest market in the city was lacklustre with its cheap footpaths – now they aren’t happy with granite. We praise the fact that developed cities across the world have lesser poverty in direct sight but very rarely try and understand the workings behind it all – would you have had Mike Fennell commenting about facing poverty here than the world looking beyond India as a land of the poor? I suspect he won’t be able to make up his mind on who to support – a future India or the apathy to the poor. Sad as it may sound, our authorities have simply blindly replied to our critics, and the critics are the ones to blame, for not highlighting the correct things, or not highlighting them in the correct fashion. The first instinct of a child scolded for breaking a vase is to never go near a vase till he’s wiser about it. Our idiots in the cockpit are as mature.

    Mr. Rai’s view, I feel is very top-down, looking at an odd pedestrian from the comfort of his vehicle, or at televised segment from his drawing room – I may be woefully wrong on both counts. People looking at it bottom up are happy, arguably because they had no expectations in the first place. But it is exactly this tone of dire criticism that forces blunt headed authorities to act as they do. I feel the key lies in encouragement laced with subtle criticism, not a fire-start mechanism.

    I reassert, I am in agreement with Mr. Rai’s overall tone, but as a critic, I feel he fails more miserably than Kalmadi. A two year old could have pointed out the same mistakes and said, “Yes, that was stupid”, only with less flair than the Professor at the Dept. of English at Delhi University. I expected a better set of examples which were better researched.

    We do need to atleast praise what was good rather than devote all our energies to the negative. ‘Improvement over error’ is better than downright detention, but then again, Mr. Rai is a professor, if I may be allowed to generalize. The critics are actually acting more as Hitlers, while the activists clamour for things to get done, with little thought about who will do it or how it will get done. If that can be put forward, then I shall willingly and wholeheartedly join them, but till then I shall refrain from speaking out on what I know is beyond my current capability.

    And as far as the pigs grunting for Olympics 2020 is concerned, I wholeheartedly support the idea. The pigs will be long gone – we can’t expect to get the Olympics in our first ever bid (no city ever has), and this will largely be a run-up to a succesful bid by, lets say, 2028 or 2032. Hopefully, by then, I and Mr. Rai and millions of others would have made sure that Kalmadi and Co. are amply ‘rewarded’ and a newer set of more efficient and sincere officials show us what REAL success truly is. The Olympics can be a great vehicle for change, if driven by the right driver, and 20 years for preparation is ample time for good and proper implementation. We aren’t a democracy for the sake of being one – sadly, we choose to throw our hands up and blame things on stupid authorities and corrupt officials. The change, though, is now rampant with the CWG having passed, and the citizen more enlightened.

  18. Santhosh permalink
    October 16, 2010 10:13 PM

    @ Rahul……..Parks in Delhi and Noida…….are the only public/private space poor peoprle can occupy/afford…..As you know there is no “priviate” space for poor in delhi…..peopel – who do not have the luxry of having even a private place to sleep- can sleep, have lunch, make love, take rest, play games— in those parks…….mayavathi should build more parks…..

  19. Sunalini permalink
    October 18, 2010 12:17 PM

    Prayash, clearly one citizen remains less enlightened though.

  20. tara permalink
    October 19, 2010 1:37 PM

    Prayash, let me guess, you’re a Hafeez Contractor acolyte. Enjoy the view from your gated community.

    • Prayash Giria permalink
      October 22, 2010 6:22 PM

      Tara and Sunalini,

      I’m sorry if my point of view does not meet yours. But I re-assert that Prof. Rai has excellent intent (count me in as one of the rope-bearers), but poor factual backing.

      And Tara,

      I hope you know as much about architecture as your guesswork about Hafeez Contractor high-worship – Its a lengthy debate, but this is not the place to discuss it. I fail to understand what it has to do with this debate though.

      Sincerest Apologies, and Regards,
      Prayash

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