Delhiites of every generation have had a rather curious way of appreciating grand architecture — by spitting on the walls and throwing around filth.When architect Herbert Baker designed the Secretariat — the North and South blocks — he kept the walls largely unembellished unlike the classical style, keeping in mind the Indian architectural techniques. The massive sandstone walls, however, were soon decorated with paan stains even before New Delhi was officially inaugurated in 1931. Some offices and departments had shifted to the Secretariat before the inauguration. Along with offices, came the army of clerks and daftaries. To the horror of its architects, the walls, corridors and staircases of the buildings were defaced by spitting. The babus also had the habit of throwing ink from fountain pens outside their windows, staining the walls.
In 1926, the New Capital Committee passed a resolution, warning against this practice. Officials were asked “to see that others obey the instruction”. The resolution didn’t change things much. A few months later, a letter was sent to the chief engineer of the Public Works Department, saying that departments and offices would be liable to pay the cost incurred in rectifying the ‘disfigurement of buildings’. Other ‘sarkari’ habits also existed. The government had spent £1 million in installing telephone lines in the new Capital. It was paying a similarly large amount in paying phone bills every year.