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Will Delhiwallas be World Class when the Games arrive?

With Delhi ready to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhiwallas are preoccupied with the idea of it becoming a World Class City.

india Updated: Sep 30, 2010 09:50 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

With Delhi ready to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Delhiwallas are preoccupied with the idea of it becoming a World Class City. For that to achieve they would have to change their character. That is what I’m told by a girl who hails from a truly World Class City – Singapore. The sweet, spunky Phebe Bay, studying at a university in Singapore, came to Delhi for a 5-month corporate internship. During her stay, she was mistaken for a Nepalese, a Korean and a Japanese. One Delhiwalla felt compelled to tell her his theory of her small Chinese eyes - they were the result of atomic bombings in Hiroshima! Phebe grinned back but thought hard about us Delhiwallas. These are her commandments she asked me to pass to my fellow Delhiwallas as they get ready for the Games.

Thy shalt not spit

In Singapore, spitting is limited to the older, uneducated population. I was shocked when I saw Delhi men in their twenties spitting here, there and everywhere. I had expected them to be suave since, I thought, that could be the only way to attract Indian women who are always as beautiful as Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai. Wouldn’t spitting be a total turn off? http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/delhiwalla.jpg

Once while walking by a DTC bus, I was tempted to shield myself with an umbrella. Quite an endless stream of spit, empty water bottles and used bus tickets was coming out from those bus windows. Thankfully I had escaped unscathed.

Another time, while walking around the Jama Masjid area, I saw a man spitting out reddish-looking liquid. Three drops landed on my foot.

They shalt not pee wherever thy fancy
While standing outside the Kashmere Gate metro station, I saw two men peeing right on its main gate. Looking closer, I noticed there were large pools of water (or was it something else?) glistering under the streetlights. Just then a breeze came by, fluttered my hair, but the beautiful moment was followed by a urine-sort-of-stench. Do Delhi-wallas have no respect for the Metro that is serving them so well?

They shalt not honk
In Singapore, honking without a reason is considered rude. If it’s too difficult for Delhi-wallas to give up this practice, why not put melodious sounds into honks? That would be less annoying. In fact, some trucks along the Meharuli- Gurgaon expressway do have cute-sounding honks.

However, please don’t honk unless you need to.

They shalt smile
Delhiwallas don’t smile. Everyone seems to be in a rush; nobody appears to care for others. But a smile goes a long way. In Khan Market, it was not the fancy bookstores or Subway sandwiches, but the smile of a cleaning-walli that made me happy. Next time when the security guard opens the showroom’s door for you, or the police-walla checks your bag at a Metro station's entrance, look into his or her eyes and smile. Everyone likes to be appreciated for what they do. :)

Thy shalt be courteous to all, regardless of gender or social rank
Once at a bank I saw a certain big-sized Mr Walla breaking a queue and coming in front of a lady, two heads shorter than him. It was her turn, yet Mr Walla uttered something to her in a fierce, loud voice and forced his way to the bank teller. The poor lady could do nothing.

Once at the DLF Emporio mall in Vasant Kunj, a certain Ms Walli was spotted in her branded sunglasses and Prada handbag. She jumped the queue at the security checkpoint and barged her way inside. When the security guard called her back, she shot her an annoyed, snobbish, Why-Are-You-Bothering-Me look. The Ms Walli might be decked up in World Class brands, but did she have a World Class attitude? I don’t think so.

They shalt respect women
I have enough of Delhi’s molester-wallas who like to take ‘advantage’ in crowded areas. Would they like it if such things were to happen to their mothers and sisters? A World Class City has to be a place where women can walk freely at night. And if you witness such acts, don’t let the perpetrator go free. Whack him with your handbag, or scream.

Thy shalt improve the infrastructure
This city needs smoother roads, cleaner toilets, better buses, and more garbage cans. Since bins are just a corner away in my country, I find it disturbing not being able to find one in Delhi. There are very few in public areas. Twice, against my conscience, I had to throw garbage on the ground.

They shalt bear the cost
To be World Class, you will have to give up even the lovely things about Delhi. When I was at Majnu Ka Tila and Chandni Chowk, I saw people hanging their clothes on the railings along the road, and on trees. This is certainly not permitted in a World Class City, but it looked so beautiful. It symbolized a way of life and also made the place so special.

But can they ever be World Class?
Delhi-wallas need not have towering skyscrapers. A World Class City is rather defined by the attitudes of its people, their acts of graciousness and consideration. In this urban sprawl of 13 million people, thrice the size of Singapore, it is not wise to rely entirely on the government. The people would have to make it happen.

Does Delhi have potential?
The city's charm is often swept away by the noise, the spitting and the dust. Yet, sometimes, suddenly, you chance upon a car-walla slowing down for you to cross the road, or you meet a chai-omelette walla who offers his lone pot-cover as a plate to have your sandwich on. More such people would turn Delhi from being a dusty, unsafe city with no manners to a World Class City. Good luck.