A Letter Sent To Mr Vir Sanghvi Some Time Back
dear mister vir sanghvi,
i am fully aware that this e-mail will not solicit any response from your end, still i have decided to send it on an off chance that even if it does not draw out a response, it may pass before your eyes.
i am a hindi poet and happen to be a regular reader of your paper. i have read your weekly columns regularly and i am struck with the ease with which you can float from discussing an exotic cuisine ( unfortunately out of the reach and even comprehension of thousands of your english knowing readers, leave alone the millions who are not acquainted with this great language of our erstwhile masters and the culinary delights you talk about) to discussing some finer point in our socio-political set-up as you have done yesterday (sunday 26th september ) by deftly defining the two indias we are face to face with, namely, the old india of the aged, tottering, doddering corrupt and callous ministers and officials like m.s.gill, jaipal reddy and lalit bhanot on the one hand and the go-getters representing the new resentful india of the private enterprise. you have not only soft-handled Kalmadi but also very cleverly not named the shining seigfrieds and ivan hoes of the new india but we can surmise they must be the likes of anil/mukesh ambanis, the young "kingfisher" mallyas. so, we know whose side you are despite, your sermonising stance.
but, the two indias you mentioned in passing in the very first paragraph of your article, albeit with a little derision, are the two indias which oppose each other in reality or shall i mention real space. the india of the haves versus the india of the haves-not. the poor india of the slums vs the shining india of the posh colonies. your seemingly righteous anger stems from the fact that the two indias you talk about are what in our native parlance is known as "ek hi thaili ke chatte batte." get what i mean. the ambanis and mittals and mallyas must be fuming at kalmadi and his cohorts siphoning off and salting away millions out of the 9 billion dollars being spent out of the public exchequer. i hope you still agree that the poor india of the slums deserves its share out of this as a right and not as largesse to be doled out by the new "east india company sahibs." so, the new go-getter indians must be really sore at not having a go at the public cake, large slices of which have gone into the jowls of oc officials and politicians.
but, why not question the bloody cw games in the first place ? is the queen coming here ? to see how her forner subjects are faring ? or is she content with having a splendid lackey at the helm of affairs who has put the whole country and martyrs like bhagat sing, lahiri, rajguru, azad and sukhdev to shame by kow-towing before the dons of oxford. how very apt that the word "don" takes on ever new shades of meaning with the passage of time. or mention that mani shanker aiyer has all along been very critical of the games. sorry, your paper has mentioned mani only as a spanner in the works and as a scape-goat for the dilly-dallying of officials and politicians who chose to remain silent all along and have now come howling at the quandary mani has landed them in by saying that it was because of his attitude that no work could be done.
obviously, you have no interest in looking at the seamier side of things and that is the reason why your newspaper has already embarked on a damage-control strategy. not only the games are being lauded almost as a "great leap forward", but your staff has started harping on an "enough is enough, let's get the act together" theme right after your cue of 26th september. and we can now hope that in the days to come your newspaper is going to paint quite a rosy picture of the games.
but you, naturally, don"t mention this. which brings me to the second reason for sending this missive. in your paper you are very fond of publishing illustrated stories featuring residents of various localities of delhi in raptures about the wonderful living conditions there. i distinctly remember two such storie, one on derawalnagar and one on rohini. but have you ever heard of an old village called burari which has now become part of the expanding topography of our metropolis ? it is two to three kilometers from derawalnagar and the same distance away from rohini, off the karnal g.t. road. to call it a cesspool is putting it mildly. or rather i should say it depends which angle are you looking at it from. the cesspools of india shining, or the new india as you term it, must of necessity smell differently to the cesspools of the old india for which you and people like you have developed a blind spot.
to enter burari is an experience which a person from say race course road or jor bagh or even hauz khas is likely not to forget for a very long, long time. the pot holes in the two kilometer road from the bypass to burari are enough to cause miscarriages in expecting mothers. the filth in the lanes and streets, the overflowing sewers and the waterlogged lanes and open spaces are a sight to behold. but, is burari the only cesspool ? what of the tens of hundreds of buraris scattered in the capital and other metropolitan cities, state capitals and mufassil townships ? or the buraris which stink in the four great columns keeping our great democracy from crumbling -- the corrupt polity, unreliable and embedded media, self-serving bureaucracy and the last bastion to tumble, i.e., the judiciary ?
this is the india which the leaders of new india like p. chidambaram and rahul gandhi and the sindhias and pilots wish to obliterate by inflicting neglect and sub-human conditiions upon its denizens. how else does chidambaram hope that 85 percent of india's population will move from the villages to urban areas. and what urban areas at that. let me quote a few lines from my friend arundhati's latest article :
"Maybe it’s in the fitness of things that what's left of our democracy should be traded in for an event that was created to celebrate the British Empire. Perhaps it’s only right that 400,000 people should have had their homes demolished and been driven out of the city overnight. Or that hundreds of thousands of roadside vendors should have had their livelihoods snatched away by order of the Supreme Court so city malls could take over their share of business. And that tens of thousands of beggars should have been shipped out of the city while more than a hundred thousand galley slaves were shipped in to build the flyovers, metro tunnels, Olympic-size swimming pools, warm-up stadiums and luxury housing for athletes. The Old Empire may not exist. But obviously our tradition of servility has become too profitable an enterprise to dismantle"
it is because of this questioning that arundhati is constantly the target of the attacks of you star columnist barkha datt and the great media persons like arnab goswami and chandan mitra. allow me to mention a few more facts about the state of affairs in the new india that you are so anxiously advocating. again a quote from arundhati :
more than sixty million people who have been displaced, by rural destitution, by slow starvation, by floods and drought (many of them man-made), by mines, steel factories and aluminium smelters, by highways and expressways, by the 3300 big dams built since Independence and now by Special Economic Zones. They’re part of the 830 million people of India who live on less than twenty rupees a day, the ones who starve while millions of tons of foodgrain is either eaten by rats in government warehouses or burnt in bulk (because it’s cheaper to burn food than to distribute it to poor people). They’re the parents of the tens of millions of malnourished children in our country, of the 2 million who die every year before they reach the age of five. They’re the millions who make up the chain-gangs that are transported from city to city to build the New India. Is this what is known as “enjoying the fruits of modern development”?
What must they think, these people, about a government that sees fit to spend nine billion dollars of public money (two thousand percent more than the initial estimate) for a two-week long sports extravaganza which, for fear of terrorism, malaria, dengue and New Delhi’s new superbug, many international athletes have refused to attend? ...Not much, I guess. Because for people who live on less than twenty rupees a day, money on that scale must seem like science fiction. It probably doesn’t occur to them that it’s their money. That’s why corrupt politicians in India never have a problem sweeping back into power, using the money they stole to buy elections. (Then they feign outrage and ask, “Why don’t the Maoists stand for elections?”)
so, this is the real india mr vir sanghvi, illustrious editor of the great newspaper hindustan times. see the hindustan in which the majority of your countrymen live in ( and die ) and the times they are passing through.