Tag Archives: new delhi

Dinesh Wagle

March 17, 2013

Back in the city where I lived for two years as a correspondent. Fortunately it’s not that hot today (29c). It’s not expected to be so for the rest of the week except for Wednesday (35c), according to the Weather Channel. The heat of Delhi terrifies me. That’s the reason  why I have written a couple of articles on the Delhi heat (and cold). Expecting to be in a cooler place this weekend.

(This trip interrupts my UK entries though I will post one this evening (about revised impression of the Speakers’ Corner at Hyde Park) and the rest after I am back in Kathmandu next week.)

1.Heat and Dust of Delhi (talks about the curfew)
2. Delhi is getting hotter (around this time 3 years ago)
3. Dinesh Wagle Has Moved to New Delhi, India (announcement)
4. Reasons to Come Home (announcement and impression of India)
5. दिल्लीबाट काठमान्डु (for Kantipur)

And on Cold
6. Winter Flagbearers: Delhi Cold and JNU Food Festival (winter cold gets as bad as the summer heat)

Nepal should help Indians understand our society and people better

promoting nepal in india kathmandu post 8aug10

click to enlarge

Excerpts of an article published in the Kathmandu Post today:

Despite being so close and sharing a border there is an unimaginably high level of misunderstanding about Nepal among Indians. Some of those misunderstandings are based on rumours and hearsay (all Nepalis smoke pot) while others are created by the Indian mainstream media that is most of the times frighteningly immature and trivial when it comes to covering Nepal.

Tens of thousands of Nepali students study in India—right across the country. They are more likely to meet educated and influential Indians (some with misinformation about Nepal) all over the country. That is why these students, not the diplomats, are the real ambassadors of the Himalayan republic in the world’s largest democracy.

Sometime the arguments turn into unreasonable blabber. “When they have nothing to support their argument, they just try to bring in nationality and say ‘you Nepalon, keep quiet’,” said a student who studies in Delhi University. “In such cases when they just argue nothing but keep repeating about the size of their democracy, we also say: if you are the largest democracy, don’t forget, we are also the highest democracy,” said another student at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Lesser known or politically and economically less powerful countries try to promote their interests in important foreign societies and markets through various means. But Nepal hasn’t found ways to promote itself among the Indian public.

[Here’s the full version of the article. Or, click on the photo above.]

Related links:

1. Face Value: Being a Nepali in India

Only a person with a flat nose and, I hate to use the word here but I must, “chinky” eyes, passes as a Nepali for many Indians…..Going by their reactions and comments, I have come to the conclusion that only those with Mongolian features are considered Nepali in India.

When I hear the same from educated Indians like journalists, software professionals, bank employees and university students, I seriously try to explain to them the diverse nature of Nepali society that lives at different altitudes, eats varieties of foods, speaks many languages and sport different looks.

2. Chance Encounters (with Nepalis) In India

It was the lunch hour and the concrete shade, not very far from the showroom, was his favorite spot to eat. Not that they didn’t let him eat in a corner of the showroom itself; but, he said, he found peace here. “And some time to rest,” he added. Hundreds of thousands of uneducated, unskilled and unemployed men (and women) from Nepal come to several Indian cities to take up low-wage, laborious and sometimes humiliating jobs. One can find such Nepalis almost everywhere in India.

India: Ten Years After

sarojini nagar market
It was a sobering moment when I recently saw a plaque erected beside a wall at Delhi’s another well-known market in Sarojini Nagar. “Condolence to those who died in the bomb blast on 29 Sept 2005,” said the plaque. It listed the names/identities of 47 people. A total of 50 people died on that day. Three of them couldn’t be identified.

On the last day of 2009, India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram appeared before the media as part of his monthly schedule to provide his assessment of the security situation in the country. The next day’s headline quoted the minister, “Eventful, but peaceful year.” That’s a jolly good headline to begin a new year with. In a country like India that is so wide and so populous, it is indeed a feat to make a year “eventful but peaceful”. Particularly so for a country that is so targeted by terrorists of different kinds and that cannot recall a year in recent times being peaceful in the true sense of the word.

Forget about the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai that dominated the “peaceful” year of 2009. Just look at the major markets in Delhi, for example, and you can see the scars everywhere. The Flower Market at Mehrauli was hit by a bomb in September 2008. The famous Karol Bagh market witnessed a blast in the same month that year. Blasts also rocked the markets at Connaught Place and Greater Kailash. It was a sobering moment when I recently saw a plaque erected beside a wall at Delhi’s another well-known market in Sarojini Nagar. “Condolence to those who died in the bomb blast on 29 Sept 2005,” said the plaque. It listed the names/identities of 47 people. A total of 50 people died on that day. Three of them couldn’t be identified.

Visitors to every major market in Delhi have to pass through metal detectors seen only at very important locations such as Singha Durbar, the central administrative complex, and airports in Nepal. Many of the security equipment installed in Delhi’s markets have become dysfunctional because, after all, Delhi is Delhi — the capital of India. The impaired detectors remind us of the fact that India, despite its recent economic growth, remains India, an improvised nation of a billion plus citizens with millions still in poverty. And those places with useless security equipment could still be vulnerable to attacks. If untoward incidents didn’t happen in 2009, it was not entirely because of the strong vigilance and policing, but perhaps because the terrorists were busy in other activities.

sarojini nagar market

May such blasts never occur in Delhi, but the bright fact is that Indian society is vibrant and its power to get over such attacks has grown over the years. The critically acclaimed 2008 movie Mumbai Meri Jaan, based on the July 2006 train bombings in Mumbai that killed 209 people and injured over 900, tells it best. Whatever happens, life goes on. You survive to live your life. In fact, India is too big to be intimidated by such attacks and incidents. Society can get over the wounds quickly and move on. The pace is increasing as ever. As the New Year rung in, Indians welcomed it with a bang. Delhi was completely soaked in celebrations and parties. Big hotels and expensive restaurants were booked to their full capacity. Entry fees alone for many of the parties were in the range of Indian Rs. 10,000 per couple.

While providing his assessment, the home minister didn’t forget the Maoist insurgency that is spreading all over India and remained in the headlines throughout the year 2009. Termed the greatest internal security threat to India by its prime minister, the problem that is igniting Maoism in India is certainly a grave challenge for this country. “I am disappointed over the Lalgarh situation,” said the minister referring to the district in West Bengal that hosted a major part of the Maoist agitation last year. “It’s pretty depressing,” he said.

Depressing it certainly is, but overall, the situation in India is pretty encouraging. Some headlines are even more enthusiastic. Under the banner headline “Happy New Decade, India”, the Indian Express on the first day of the new year published the findings of a study that said, among other things, even if no reforms happen, India’s GDP can grow at an average annual rate of 9.6 percent for the next 10 years. “Nine percent growth for 10 years with no reforms — that’s how well-placed India is as 2010 begins,” it said. With rapid reforms, it said, India could achieve even more. Even without reforms, the per capita income will grow at an average of 8 percent per year. By the end of the decade, incomes will be almost double compared to now. Roughly 800 million Indians will be middle class — defined as those earning between IRs. 75,000 to Rs. 10 lakh a year — out of an end-of-decade population of 1.3 plus billion.

Going by the findings, it seems another challenge to the Indian government is reform because reform is directly related to the Maoist problem. If there are no reforms (policy status quo), and growth is 9 percent plus, more than 250 million people (out of 1.3 billion plus) will still be very poor in 2020, according to the study. The number of Indians not literate will fall by 10 million in 10 years, but that will still leave nearly 200 million non-literate citizens. The more poor and non-literate people in society, the more intense are the movements like that of the Maoists. The study says only drastic reforms in fiscal, education and other policies will help India become the global powerhouse that its citizens so badly want it to be.

This article appeared on today’s Op-Ed of the Kathmandu Post

A Tale of Two Cities: Kathmandu and Delhi

In Kathmandu, things are a bit chaotic for its size.

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

Dharahara, Kathmandu is mostly surrounded by chaos

So how’s Delhi?” many of my friends asked me when I was in Kathmandu recently.

I had stayed away from Kathmandu and lived in Delhi for a year.

The question expected two different answers: Some wanted to know about city life while others were interested in the political happenings in the Indian capital vis-à-vis the Nepali situation. Some had asked out of curiosity while others for formality. The conversations inevitably moved towards comparison. Some said “Delhi ma ta ramro hola hai?” (It must be good in Delhi, no?) citing things gone disappointingly bad in Kathmandu.

Delhi isn’t a great city of the world that is vastly different from Kathmandu. The only major difference is that the Indian capital is, to some extent, cared for by its government and citizens. It is well served. The government is pouring money into the city to build infrastructure. Apart from creating the “world class” metro rail system, they are making flyovers to free the roads from traffic congestion, paving roads and constructing stadiums to host games of international importance. A new flyover was scheduled to be inaugurated this week on the outer ring road of Delhi (Kathmandu has been only talking about the outer ring road for years). Delhi is gearing up at war pace to host the Commonwealth Games next year. Apart from the developmental activities, a general sense of order and discipline prevails in Delhi though incidents of crime, some of them horrifying, do occur. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Drivers: Delhi Autowallah and Shillong Cabbie

Some people complain while others struggle to make their lives a success.

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

Hom Bahadur Rana from Tanahun, Nepal is an autowallah in Delhi (click to enlarge the photo)

In the hilly north-eastern Indian town of Shillong, music is your identity. More so in the case of a cabbie. What the audio cassette player in your taxi blares says who you are. When I heard Sanjeev Singh asking, “Why did you put chokho mutu tikho chulesima from inside a cab that was parked at an intersection of Police Bazaar recently, I instantly recognised the man behind the wheel.

“Wassup!” I greeted the man in Nepali without being too excited because the Nepali sound wasn’t unexpected in Shillong. This is part of a region that is home to hundreds of thousands of Nepali Indians. The cable network here distributes TV channels from Kathmandu. Some of the Nepalis in the Darjeeling area of West Bengal are fighting for a separate Gorkhaland state within the Indian union while Shillonge like this taxi driver, resident of Meghalaya, are quietly struggling for their own right to live a respectful life without humiliation. Their own sorry state of being a marginalised minority was in a way similar to the tragic song’s theme.

“We live a torturous life here, daju,” said the driver.

shillong taxi driver

He is a Nepali Indian and drives a cab in his hometown Shillong, Meghalaya (India). (click to enlarge the photo)

Meghalaya is a Khasi majority state where Khasis claim to be “the sons of the soil” and exploit resources without sharing. Nepalis are a minority and, therefore, sidelined and deprived of opportunities, he complained. Perils of federalism, I thought. But I sensed he was slightly exaggerating the situation because there’s no atrocity being committed against the Nepali community in the region these days as it was during the 1980s. At that time, thousands of Nepalis were chased away from Meghalaya and neighboring states like Manipur and Assam. It was noted that India had breached the now controversial 1950 treaty of peace and friendship with Nepal by failing to stop and being a mute spectator to the exodus of Nepalis. The driver insisted that Nepalis still had no equal rights, and that they were not represented well in government services.

“Many young people like me have become drivers,” he said. Some of them drove shared taxis, the primary medium of transportation in Shillong, like him while others went out to cities like Kolkata for better options. Ultimately, they return empty-handed as they fail to struggle in those cities that have a different atmosphere and cultural environment. “We are hill people,” he said. “We can’t live in hot places.”

I was amazed, albeit understandably, to see him at so much ease while talking with me in Nepali. It was his language as much as it was mine. The language brought us so close that, at one point in a similar situation the previous evening, I felt my two Indian co-travelers, students of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, found themselves excluded when I was talking with another Nepali youth on the streets of Shillong. That young man also complained about a difficult life in a state where Nepalis are a minority lot.

Some people complain while others struggle to make their lives a success. They are not discouraged by countless humiliations and obstacles. They keep on working towards achieving their goals despite facing serious setbacks. They keep journeying despite being cheated sometime by their own comrades and on other occasions by fate. This is the story of Hom Bahadur Rana, an autowallah of Delhi.

Twenty years ago when Rana fled his home in Bandipur, Tanahun, he was 15. Unable to bear the torture of her drunkard husband, Rana’s mother had killed herself a few years ago by hanging herself from a tree not very far from home. He couldn’t continue studying, and thought life wasn’t going anywhere. He arrived in Delhi along with a neighborhood dai. Like millions of other migrant workers in India, he went for whatever work came to him. Money didn’t come. He was already dreaming about Bombay. He found a friend in a Nepali guy he met in a farmhouse in Chandigarh. They decided to catch a train to the seashore.

“We had this dream to make it to Bombai,” (that’s how he pronounces it) recalled Rana. “We wanted to see the sea.” They arrived at Old Delhi railway station only to be tactfully looted by a Nepali-speaker who pretended to be going to Bombay. Rs. 1200, half of the total money they had, was gone in a jiffy. Then they were cheated another Rs. 100 by the railway ticketing agent who sold them “seats” in the general compartment. The journey itself was unforgettable. “We didn’t get space to sit inside the dibba,” Rana said. “We went near the lavatory and sat on the joint that connects the train compartments. In the morning, we saw that our clothes had all been covered with feces.”

In Bombay, they were clueless about the destination. They walked up to the sea and wandered around the city until a taxi suddenly halted in front of them. Two guys got out and started beating them. “You Nepalis,” they said as they threw Rana and his friend inside the cab. “Why do you come here? Take out money.” Another Rs. 300 was gone. The only remaining Rs. 200 was hidden inside their collars. “We knew Bombai was a city of looters,” Rana said. “We had hidden some money in our collars. We were forced to take off even our kattu, but they couldn’t find that money.”

Terrified, they went back to the railway station planning to go back to Delhi without a ticket. If caught, they thought, they could at least get free food. There they met another Nepali who, like the one in Delhi, offered help. This one turned out to be genuine, and they found a job. They thought it was a miracle. After a few years of struggle and stints as security guard and painter, Rana was making money. But he lost all his earnings, Rs. 12,000 in total, in an incident that involved one of his friends eloping with his co-worker and the girl’s relatives filing a complaint to the police. He had to leave the job and the city.

But he wasn’t defeated. Coming back to Delhi, he decided to start all over again. He drove an auto, the three-wheeler that is, in a way, the backbone of Delhi transportation. After a few years of working up to 18 hours a day, he bought a small piece of land in Rohini, west Delhi. There he set up a shack, and for the first time in about 10 years, returned home to marry. Three years ago, he finally bought his own auto on installment. Ownership of an auto has given him a sense of liberation. By the end of next year, he would have made all his payments. Then the profits will come. A week ago, when I was in his three-room home, he served me with a cup of milk tea and some cookies.

“A month ago during Dashain, I organised a small gathering here,” he said, beaming. “I invited many Nepalis living in Delhi and served them masu bhat. I had bought a goat costing Rs. 7,000.”

I have met many Nepalis in India as part of my work, but Rana’s story was by far the most inspiring. He was happy except that his wife badly wants a child, and they haven’t been able to produce one. The day I visited his home, Rana had invited a Nepali jhakri (witch doctor) for jharphuk to satisfy his wife.

This article first appeared in the op-ed page of today’s Kathmandu Post.

Parking Fee at Pragati Maidan…

…has been increased to Rs. 100 from Rs. 10 overnight!

How much is the car parking fee at Pragati Maidan metro station? Rs. 100 for six hours. It was Rs. 10 for 24 hours until yesterday! I was astonished when learned about 10-fold hike this evening. I wasn’t insane to pay the amount to park a car for less than two hours. Therefore I came back cancelling my trip to Chawri Bazaar. I’ll go tomorrow in auto.

Pragati Maidan in New Delhi is a venue for exhibitions and fares of all kinds. The annual trade fair, perhaps the biggest of them all, has begun from today and on account of that they have increased the parking fee. Continue reading

A Year in Delhi, India

Dinesh Wagle in Delhi local train

Fulfilling my year-long desire today I rode in a local train in Delhi.

Yes, a year has passed. Today marks the first anniversary of my arrival in New Delhi. It was a year ago on this day I had landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and arrived at B-19, Jangpura Extension to take charge of our one-man bureau. It’s been fun and interesting so far. Something I have learned from the lonely life in Delhi. At the same time there are quite a few things I missed. This is certainly not the first time I have lived away from my family for so long. Initial days of staying in hostel during my primary school days in Dorji School, Boudha were lonelier. It’s a pity there was no World wide Web at that time. Continue reading

Inclusive Hindutva: BJP in India

The Bharatiya Janata Party of India has realized that its hard-line brand of Hindutva politics doesn’t work anymore. And that’s a good news thanks to its defeat in the parliamentary polls

By Dinesh Wagle
as published in today’s Kathmandu Post

“There’s a fire raging in BJP,” said a headline in India the previous week. After the humiliating loss in the recently held parliamentary elections, the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party that propagates the idea of Hindutva has been involved in internal wrangling, blame game, finger pointing and leg pulling. The party, like all losers, has been trying to figure out the cause behind the unexpected wallop in the national polls that gave the rival Congress party an opportunity to continue in government with enhanced authority. Continue reading

From Delhi to Nepal (Kathmandu?) in a Bicycle

The IIT graduate who set off on a bicycle tour to Nepal [Here is the TKP PDF Page. Here is Kantipur Koseli Nepali PDF page]

By Dinesh Wagle

On his chin, Anand sports a Lenin-cut beard and a compromise. He wanted to be a bearded man, perhaps like Marx, but his girlfriend hated that. Thus the compromise.

Occasionally, the compromise is breached. This past week, Anand didn’t get time to trim his beard. The young Indian who left Delhi last Monday (15 June) aiming to reach Nepal spent his days bicycling on the sizzling roads. The juicy updates about the international cycle journey have been popping up in Twitter (@kaargocult) and his website rega.in frequently. “i hve a frnd named gautam who is into chakra meditation. Claims to have power over weathr. I requsted him for clouds n here they r,” says one post, called Tweet, in the micro-blogging site. “Sitting besides ganga watching others washing their sins away.” One guy says, ‘saare paap dhone hain bhen@&od‘ (Have to wash away all the sins, sister @&od).”

After a round of interview in a crowded eatery in Lajpat Nagar, I invited Anand to my apartment where he got a Chandra Surya! [रातो र चन्द्र सूर्य ज‌‌गी निशान हाम्रो…] Continue reading

A Cup of Tea and Nizamuddin

dinesh wagle sipping tea

I am seen sipping tea in this photo taken in April 2005 in the tea shop near Kantipur office in Tinkune, Kathmandu.

06/06: A version of this entry is published in today’s TKP. Here is the PDF version.

Nostalgia: One of the many things that I miss about my Kathmandu life in Delhi is the tea-shop environment. Having cups of tea and talking whole lot of things in between them was part of the life there, particularly during office hours which sometime would go up to 11 pm from say 10 am. The tea sessions were not pre-planned but spontaneous. ‘Chai wai?’ one of us (either Deepak Adhikari, a journalist with Kantipur, or me) would ask over the IM and then in about 5 minutes we were down on the street, at the back of the office in Tinkune, ordering tea at the chiya pasal. By the time chiya came, we were already engaged in some topics that ranged from, but definitely not limited to, the American politics to Pulitzers to creative writings to some obscure columns in some obscure foreign publications. During the lengthy American election process we named our tea-sessions the Caucuses.


deepak adhikari sipping tea

Deepak Adhikari, with three cups of tea, in the photo taken same day

I consider myself a great tea-drinker. At one sitting which might last up to half an hour I could go for as many as three cups of tea. As the guff (a Nepali word for chitchat) started getting more intense with some heated and interesting arguments, another round of tea would be ordered almost automatically, most of the time as a passing thought, without even giving much thought to the tea. As if tea was only a bahana for our talks that were fruitful from various perspectives. Tea would work as a supporting ingredient in our guff.

ujjwal acharya with puff

And the third cup is for Ujjwal Acharya.

It seemed as if the professional life was impossible to live without at least a few cups of tea a day in the teashop just outside the office. Such was the importance of tea in our daily life that once Deepak wrote a full blog entry about the tea and the boy who used to serve us the tea in that particular chiya pasal. That was in late 2005. Countless cups of tea were consumed as we held countless sessions of guffs in the chiya pasals around our office since then. But the desire to drink tea and be engaged in guff is not satisfied yet. [Here is the post that Deepak wrote: Our Cups of Tea. Today, after almost four years, when I read that entry with a grin, I felt like it was written yesterday.]

We needed no more than two stools to seat and, if available, a third one to put our cups was always welcome.


A roadside tea-stall near Nizamuddin Dargah

Reality: Here I am in New Delhi’s Jangpura Extension, where I work and live on the third-floor apartment of House No. B19. There are no tea-shops like those in Tinkune here. One dhaba at the right corner of the block makes MoMo and little bit of tea but there’s no “environment”. No place to seat, no stools. More importantly, there is no tea-partner. A cup of tea without some guff (chitchat) is never enjoyed.

So one day I asked Satish Bhaiya, 56-year-old son of my landlord Uncle Mehra, about the tea-shop atmosphere similar to that available in Tinkune.

I know about the magical tea that they serve in a busy chiya pasal in front of Jama Mosque in Old Delhi. But that’s too far to go in the evenings. [A separate entry will be posted on that chai (Hindi for tea)]

As we were roaming around Nizamuddin Dargah one evening, I kind of found the chiya-pasal I was looking for. On the side of a busy street leading to the dargah (mausoleum) stands a makeshift tea-stall that serves packet-tea and milk in paper cups. We ‘discovered’ that after having a terribly bad malai-chai in a nearby hotel. The best thing about this tea-stall is that it serves good tea and provides a bench to seat so that I can watch the moving crowd of Muslim devotees, cycle-rickshaw wallahs, fruit juice vendors, beggars and other curious passersby while sipping tea. There is some atmosphere. On the opposite side of the tea-stall, I can see, some busy cooks roasting mutton and chicken. A fan that is moving inside a hotel room in which, Satish and I guess, pilgrims from Africa are residing. Apart from occasional gora faces of curious western tourists, the area is filled with African and Arab Muslims who come to see the dargah of Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya. The market is lively, busy and it’s quite a task to get unnoticed by the beggars. They start following you until you give either of the two things: a good scold or money. As I am strictly against giving money to beggars and don’t feel scolding is a good way of scaring them, I mostly try to ignore then and, if they continue running after me, give an irritating look. I find it strange that no beggar comes closer to Satish. Perhaps I should change my dress. The place is good for Muslim food. I often buy biryani here. A famous restaurant Karim’s is nearby.

dinesh wagle in nizamuddin

Closeup: in front of a tea stall in Nizamuddin

The neighborhood is distinctly different from other near-by residential areas. As opposed to wide roads and planned settlements like Nizamuddin East or Jangpura Extension, this area, particularly the one surrounding the dargah, has dark, narrow allies and the houses that remind me of Kathmandu’s Ason or Banaras. I have walked inside the neighborhood couple of times and what is seen is completely a different world that what is visible in other parts of Delhi. This part is just like Old Delhi.

dinesh wagle with a cuppa in nizamuddin


Once I went to see the dargah and found that males from all religions are allowed inside but Muslim women are barred from entering.

That is not of my concern. Mine is limited to the tea. That is why I have been frequenting to the place almost every evening in the past several days for a cup (or sometime two) of chiya.