Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ten things that define Delhi (2)

But of course, Delhi is all about its women - the gorgeous dilliwallis.
The girls of Bombay may have that oh-so-cool attitude, but it is the women of Delhi who have made formal dressing into a fine art.

I was sitting at the bar at the Maurya Sheraton with two English colleagues a couple of years ago, when we saw a high profile society wedding in the hotel. For nearly an hour, as the who's who of Delhi came for the wedding, the three of us just sat there fascinated. We saw what must be some of the most beautiful women in the world, wearing some of the most outstanding wedding costumes ever designed.

That evening has become one of my enduring images of Delhi. All those gorgeous women, swishing past in exquisite wedding lehengas, expensive jewellery, fancy purses, and stilettos...it was Delhi at its swankiest best.

Previous post in this series: Ten things that define Delhi - (1)

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Ten things that define Delhi - (1)

Here's the first one:

All those glorious government buildings

(And outside them, the white Ambassador cars of the babu-log!)

Raisina Hill and it's surrounds are the most visible symbol of sovereign India. When someone says "The Indian Government", I'm guessing many of us see visions of Rajpath, Janpath, North Block, South Block, Parliament House, and so on.

I don't know about you, but this is an image that evokes mixed reactions in me.

On the one hand, there is pleasure at the image of broad roads and beautiful buildings. On a sunny day, you walk up Raisina Hill and see Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Secretariat silhouetted against a blue sky...the breeze blows through your hair and you feel like you're on top of the world.

On the other hand, there is despair at not being able to change the slow-moving and corrupt system. Through its sheer size, the bureaucracy towers terrifyingly over me; I feel dwarfed and impotent. It is like a mysterious machine that wields enormous power. The machine is inexorable, it holds the lives of a billion people in its palm...it grinds on, driven entirely by political intrigue and favour-trading.

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