New Delhi of Old India

a car sails through waterlogged delhi road
A car sails through waterlogged Delhi road

It was not surprising when the company that build $3 billion terminal at New Delhi’s international airport recently decided postpone the beginning of the operation of the landmark building by at least two weeks because of lack of “confidence”. After all this is India, the land of contrasts and paradoxes that is being touted as the next big thing on the world stage. The construction of such a lavish structure at the airport is a sure sign of India’s arrival but the reported lack of confidence is the proof that India still is very much a third world country that has millions of hungry beggars roaming on the streets. Contrast. Paradox.

Delhi’s Metro Rail is a $4 billion (and counting) mass transit system that provides excellent service on the world class infrastructure. More than a million passengers ride in the metro daily. So it’s not really surprising to see the large crowds waiting for the train at the Metro stations. Sometimes the crowds get so large, even by Indian standards, that passengers have to struggle hard to enter inside. Pushing, screaming, pulling, swearing and yelling are parts of the process. Some days are more animated than others. Like today (yesterday actually- Monday 12 July). The sudden downpour meant unexpected surge in the Metro ridership. The rush  resulted in delaying of the Metro service.

I got off at Pragati Maidan station (had boarded in at Rajeev Chowk- Connaught Place). As I came to the main exit gate of the station I saw a large group of passengers waiting for the rain to subside. Many of them were also taking off their shoes and socks and pulling their trousers up to their thighs. The road outside was completely submerged. A large pond had been created outside and water was threatening to enter inside the Metro station.

Like many others I took off my shoes and sailed through the pond to reach the parking lot. No, I didn’t complain because the Metro service alone was intimidating enough for me, my country can’t even imagine to have one right now. At the same time, while stepping into the water, I realized that India has a looooooong way to go to become a world player that some in Delhi think their country has already become.

I live in Jangpura Extension which is five kilometers away from Pragati Maidan Metro station. A car ride on that five kilometers stretch last evening felt like walking on the moon (which I suppose wasn’t a cakewalk). The road was heavily waterlogged. Was I driving on the road or boating in Phewa taal? Imagine being stranded in the middle of the road during a downpour because the car you are in breaks down or comes to an halt because water gets into exhaust or something. I was lucky as I arrived home without incident but I saw many folks who were not so lucky. They were trying to fix their cars or autos.

The roads of the city that is frantically preparing to host one of the world’s largest sporting events (the Commonwealth Games) become canals in a matter of an hour. Again I didn’t complain because my city, Kathmandu, is no different during summer. In fact, it becomes worse as roads there are not as wide as they are in Delhi, there are no flyovers like Delhi has and Kathmandu is not even dreaming of building entirely elevated road like Delhi is almost done with constructing (the 5 km elevated road connects the Games village to the Nehru Stadium near Jangpura). Only that Kathmandu is not blowing the Vuvuzela of new so called superpowerdom. Anyway, that was another paradox that I saw in Delhi. The New Delhi of same old India.

Nehru Place Metro Station
Delhi Metro is rapidly expanding its network. A station being constructed in Nehru Place.
New face of New Delhi
Highrise buildings of Delhi. Nehru Place.

This post was composed in an iPhone. Photos were taken by the same iPhone.