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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Of Delhi, and its weather...

Finally, it rained this morning, after weeks of heat and humidity.
After living in two coastal cities, Bombay and Madras, (yeah, not mumbai and chennai- I do not need dirty politicians telling me by what name i should call cities), I always see the difference in how it rains in Delhi: it is a kind of reluctant, forced rain, after the humidity builds up over days and weeks on end, not the kind of heavy, natural rain you get in Bombay or the swift rain in Chennai.
And the rain is generally very light, and stop immediately, and the heat and humidity continues here in Delhi even after the rain ends.
Not surprisingly, the electricity consumption has touched 4,900 MW.
That brings me to the core issue: why have the capital in Delhi at all?
For invaders to India, it made sense: it was an outpost on the frontier, giving them easy access to their homelands in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan and to the Khyber pass. So they settled down in Delhi, and made it the base of an empire.
For the modern republic of India, it would have made better sense to have the capital somewhere where the weather is pleasant, like Bangalore or Bhopal, and far away from Pakistan and China. The summers would have been moderate, and the winters less severe.
Instead, we now have the capital in a place which is very dusty (my car gets a film of dust within one hour of it being washed), has a history of blood, where the hot wind blows in from the Thar desert, and is just a few minutes away from  forward air bases in Tibet and Pakistan.
If the British could shift to Delhi from Calcutta, so can  we, and I guess we still have time to shift our capital. After, we are only 60 years old, a very young republic by historical standards (Aurangazeb or Akbar or Samudragupta ruled almost ruled the same length of time in a single reign), and what's more, thanks to modern construction equipment, you can have a brand new Capital in a decade...
But given the lack of vision which has characterised modern India, I doubt it will happen in my lifetime....

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Hindu Idea of Revenge...

Every morning, I cycle on a DDA park laid out over one of the medieval cities which shook India: Alaudin Khilji's Siri. The park is full of huge cyclopean dressed boulders, and the pathways go up and down, as they go over vast mounds and palaces and battlements.

It would be unbelievable in USA or Europe: the ruins of the empire which reached down all the way to Madurai being neglected, nay, being buried in a staid park over which bureaucrats and businessmen take their morning walks...
Peacock cry out loudly in the  park, and lizards slither amongst the ruins..
As I walk or cycle, I try to imagine, in my mind's eye, how the court must have been, 800 years back, which lies buried below. I try to imagine the hundreds of thousands of south Indian captives, who must have been enslaved and forced to walk all the way here, to die in the cold and the heat, after being worked to death in building Siri Fort.
The scene calls to mind Omar Khayyam's famous Quatrain:

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
     And Bahram, that great Hunter -- the Wild Ass
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.

But herein lies the whole significance of Siri Fort: more than any other fort in India, it was besieged half a dozen times by the Mongols when Alauddin Khilji was ruling, and they found it impregnable.
In other words, this place, this fort stood between the Mongols and annihilation for the masses of India.
But we, unlike the Taliban, do not dynamite our history: we just benignly build parks over them, instead of excavating them. Guess this is the Hindu idea of revenge for the ending of Warangal and Devagiri and Dwarasumudra....
PS: Why Siri? Legend has it that 8,000 severed heads of Mongols make up the base of the "Siri" fort....