“My Delhi is clean”

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Vendors in the rich people’s Defence Colony Market are selling a whole range of masks by now. A vogmask costs Rs 2000, that would be several days of salary for a construction worker (who never are provided masks, despite the powder and dusk).

The air pollution in Delhi has become so bad that I only venture out with a mask in front of my mouth now. Be it in a car with the AC on, my fitness class in the local park or a walk to the local market: The air I breathe is filtered.

While I was traveling with the mask in the metro, a young man started to act weird. When I tried to move towards the door as I wanted to deboard at Chhattarpur Metro Station, he blocked my way. I didn’t think much of it and squeezed my body around him.

When the doors of the train opened, he stumbled out with me, and snatching off my mask in the move. As both ends of the mask are fixed with a rubber behind my ears, this wasn’t so easy. I got hold of the mask. And I shouted.

Immediately several men around me acted. They grabbed the youngster and didn’t let him run away as he intended to do. Everybody thought he must’ve touched me inappropriately. Even I had that idea. But I looked down at me and realized: He didn’t.

As nothing was missing and I wasn’t molested, I would have let him run. But one of the men holding on to the guy apparently wanted to show me that a behavior like his is punished in India.

So he probed the obviously intoxicated guy. The youngster shouted over and over: “My Delhi is clean. I clean my Delhi.” It seemed to me that he felt offended when he saw me protecting myself against the smog and dust, as he thought with that act I would be insulting the city and it’s people.

The man who was determined to show me that there is law and order in the country dragged the youngster down the stairs to the entrance where the policemen are performing the security checks. The officials jumped to attention when they saw the commotion.

I repeated several times that I was unhurt and untouched – but to no avail. The youngster was taken away. I sincerely hope they didn’t treat him too harsh. Like it often happens, see here or here or here (background article on police lathi-charging being a colonial hangover here)

 

Walk to the secret lakes of Delhi

Free time is something Delhi’s elite (which calls itself middle class) normally spends at home with family, in restaurants, in malls, in homes of relatives, in bars, in more malls, in homes of friends, in cafés. You get the picture.

Usually unheard of: Sitting on a bicycle and ride to a jungle. Walk through the Aravalli hills just south of the city. Spend a day at the river Yamuna.

This has many reasons, but foremost people are not feeling safe out there. This is not some unsubstantiated fear, but very real. The chances to get raped, robbed, threatened, pushed around, asked for money, told to go away , or all at once, are very real.

So if people from Delhi do venture out into the wild, they only go in big groups. With someone, who has been there before. Who has talked to the village elders as a backup, and got someone along from the village as a guide.

I joined the group “Delhi by Foot” to explore five secret lakes in the Wild Life Sanctuary Asola Bhatti.

We found: sandy beaches, pristine blue water in the valleys that were rock quarries some 15 years ago, sun that made it through the less dense smog out there. Along the way, we met locals going about their everyday lives, which included the chopping of shrub, walking somewhere with camels, and tending cows.

It was more a stroll than a hike, as the elite in Delhi, even if they are interested in outdoor activities, is so not used to walk on unpaved surfaces. So any climb up a dirt trek with two roots sticking out, or a step higher than 15 centimeters takes it’s own sweet time.

 

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