The death toll will tell you how Delhi suffered. Photographs and video clippings will drill home the terror. But if you take a walk down Barakhamba Road at any given hour in the day you will refuse to believe that anything ever happened. That is Delhi, fatalistic almost to a fault.
Some might call it abnormal for a city to show no signs of lasting trauma, but for a nation that has seen more than a decade of unmitigated violence, the definition of normal has changed. And for Delhiites, the instinct to survive in a world of markets and wages is stronger than the instinct to survive at all.
And so Delhi ticks on, celebrating 2010 rather than being traumatised by the bomb blasts. One of the fallouts of the recent blasts is that most of us have to show our IDs and have our cars checked before entering any building. When the topic came up over coffee, I was ready for a barrage of “do we look like terrorists” cribs.
What I got instead was a volley of positive affirmations, “we feel safer”, “it’s a great thing”, “they should do this at restaurants, too”. Wow. Could Delhi really be taking this maturely? Weren’t people annoyed with the long checks at the Metro? Didn’t anyone want to complain about frisking and metal detectors? Au contraire. As a colleague just informed me proudly, “I think the Metro guys are finally doing it right.”
Ten seconds at the metal detector, another 20 with the bag-checker and a whole lot of security personnel crawling around. “It’s great.” Parents today feel safer when their kids walk into school through metal-detecting gates, youngsters smile through endless checks at malls and cinemas.
People even leave home earlier to budget for the time. Within this ‘spirit of Delhi’ is also a maturing psyche, one that has taken the fear and converted it into a positive outlook. One that is willing to be inconvenienced to fight the odds. Most of us are willing to work with the government, to put aside the blame game and co-operate with it. For us, this sign of bad times is also a symbol of hope, a promise that reinstates our will to survive.
And the government seems to be assuring us: ‘you fight your daily battles and we’ll help you win’. So, shame on those of you who persist in cribbing, learn something and grow up.