“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)

 

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Death by Breath

Delhi’s air is horribly polluted. And even though I had known this for years, I did not always wear a mask when doing sports outdoors, and often didn’t bother to move my air purifier from the sleeping room to the living room when I was lazing around on the couch.

This went on until I started feeling a heavy weight on my chest when I was out on the streets. And during fitness class, I felt like I couldn’t suck in enough air into my lungs. The further the winter advanced, the thicker the toxic cloud over Delhi became, smelling like a mixture of a welder’s shop, burnt coffee and a chemical factory.

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My face mask after a day of commuting on the bicycle and a sport’s class in Lodhi Garden

When looking at the fine particulate matter  PM2.5 – particles so small they can be ingested deep into the lungs and cause cancer -, Delhi is the most polluted city in the world, according to a compilation of data by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Three times worse than Beijing.

The culprits are: emissions from Delhi’s 8.5 million vehicles (especially bad: old diesel trucks, which should not enter the city, but still do), construction dust, brick kilns, coal factories, burning of crop stubble in farms around the city, sand from the deserts.

So it’s clear what should be done: Scale up the public transport system, slash diesel subsidies, make parking expensive, regulate factories effectively, enforce rules against stubble burning, cover material at construction sites, clean the streets instead of just swiping the dust from one end to the other.

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New masks, will last for 1000 hours. I am not leaving the house without.

Delhi’s High Court observed that the air pollution levels in the national capital have reached “alarming” proportions and it was akin to “living in a gas chamber”. It directed the politicians to now, finally, ultimately, act on the threat the foul air poses in the world’s fifth largest megacity.

The next day, the Delhi government announced that from January 1st, odd-numbered cars will be allowed to ply on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while even-numbered vehicles will run on the other days. (Single female drivers might be excluded, so will ambulances and police cars and taxis).  Schools shall remain closed. Factories moved.

After that, for the first time, I heard a public outcry. So far the vast majority of Delhi’s elite didn’t talk about the toxic air. Air purifiers and mask were something foreigners bought. And only a couple of news channels and newspapers reported extensively. Now, that their everyday life is immediately affected, the people around me start talking about air.

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Left: unused filter of the air purifier in my bedroom. Right: used filter.

 

India Observes Muharram

For Shia Muslims, Muharram marks the death of of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein. He was killed in the Battle of Karbala, now in modern-day Iraq.

The event is marked by ritual acts of mourning by Shia Muslims. They are wearing black and take part in processions that involve an enactment of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein – some participants wail or whip or flagellate themselves to represent his suffering.

Impressions from the street parade south of Kashmiri Gate in Old Delhi

Shahjahanabad at Dawn

A mixture only the Walled City can offer: From the impressive Anglo Arabic Senior Secondary School through the led light area, along the bewildering maze of alleys, with some stops at crumbling havelis (private mansions), till the Kalan Masjid, above pet pigeons are flown above the white domes.

Please, I just want to order

Ordering on the Indian e-commerce company lenskart took me onto quite a ride – which doesn’t seem to come to an end soon.

After hitting the final button, a message was sent to my phone. Simultaneously I was asked on the computer screen to type in a COD confirmation code.

While I was still typing that, I received an automated call, also asking me to confirm the order. I pressed key number 1.

When my thoughts returned to the code, the phone rang again. This time a real person was on the other end, asking me if I wanted any discount. I didn’t. I wanted my peace.

I finished typing the code. Then the phone buzzed again, this time announcing I did in fact purchase the lenses and the order is processed.

By that time, I had gotten four emails, the first one greeting me and telling me I had placed my order successfully. It further read: “Now sit back and enjoy!”

The second one was exactly the same as number one. Number three and four said they received the “Cash for Delivery” order. I shall note it has been queued for verification. And: “You might receive a call/SMS from us to confirm your order and contact details.”

Noooo!

In Delhi, autum is the new spring

little trees

Germany goes to the polls – I already went

It’s done. I managed to – hopefully correct – put the Stimmzettel in the Stimmzettelumschlag, which then, together with the Eidesstaatliche Versicherung, had  to go in the Wahlbriefumschlag.

Wahlbriefumschlag

Phew! A couple of weeks ago I saw the voting in Bhutan. There people just had to press one out of two buttons.

Even more complicated than voting itself is figuring out how to do it when you are a de-registered german citizen. First I thought I could easily walk into the embassy on the 22nd of September, but when I asked, they transferred me to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry issued a – very lengthy – notice, which on three out of four pages didn’t give away the valuable information I was seeking for. Only on the fourth page I found the crucial link for the application form.

The completed form then had to be sent – by mail of course, not electronically – to the relevant authority for “Eintragung in das Wählerverzeichnis”. The officials dealing with the case are the ones in the municipal body where one has lived before moving out of Germany.

Side note: Germans who never lived in Germany and don’t have any attachment with a place or bonds like a working place, have to vote in the native municipal of their ancestors. And who is working for a German Embassy, is according to that most connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and votes in the district office of central Berlin.

Now the letter is on it’s way. Given the time it took the application form to reach Berlin, the Wahlbrief might reach the Bezirksamt Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg von Berlin just in time.

“Dear Customer,

welcome to the exclusive world of Titanium Rewards Debit Card”, the letter from Axis Bank reads. And oh year, it really seems to be exclusive. So exclusive actually that the bank nearly drove me crazy before I got the card. But from the beginning.

When it was about time to open a bank account, I contacted my landlord, who is the manager of the A-block club and an important man in my residential quarter. With me in tow he stomped into his relationship bank, raised an alarm and proclaimed loudly that I, his tenant, need a bank account. Now. I felt humble.

In his presence the paperwork was surprisingly easy – for Indian standards, obviously. I only had to hand in my lease agreement, a passport copy, a copy of my visa and the letter that states I got the visa, a copy of the residence letter of the Foreign Regional Registration Office, a copy of the tax card, a copy of my employment contract and several photographs. But I came prepared.

Then, as it is usual in India, the address must be checked. So a young lady and her male colleague came to my office to see if I’m really there. I was. This habit still makes me wonder, because I want to give them my money, not the other way round. Shouldn’t I go and check them out? But anyway, all would be done soon, the young woman promised.

But how soon is soon in India? After a couple of weeks, I called and heard empty promises. I walked in the bank branch and heard empty promises. I made my landlord call and he heard empty promises. Every time the lady told me: Tomorrow.

One day, she didn’t say “tomorrow”. She asked me to come and fill in some forms. Apparently I filled in the wrong ones in the beginning, namely the ones for locals, not for foreigners – but I’m officially a resident of India, so I don’t see the difference. Well, they do.

Next time she asked me to come with some copies of my passport. But wait, I said, you already have these copies. Yes, she replied, but you have to sign on them. So I went to the bank and signed.

Ready to clear? N0. She needs an address in Germany, the young lady told me the next time. But I’m a resident of India, I responded, now really unpatiently. Anyway, she said. What to do? I finally gave her a payslip that has my name as well as the address of my company in Hamburg. It worked.

And then…. tataaa: The account got cleared.

Wise Guys rock the German School in Delhi

Wise Guys concert

Hard Work for a Workout

Looking at the map, my neighourhood could be a good place to find a jogging track. There’s a lot of green, even parks. But that’s the map.

The Golf Course in the Northwest is off limits. Totally isolated. The stream to the West is a foul-smelling sewage channel, with it’s banks full of garbage and without a single blade of gras. The Stadium to the Southwest is always locked up. Lodi Gardens, Green Park and Siri Fort are too far away.

So I peered towards the East. Some railroad tracks are running there, but living in India for some weeks now, I know that they can be crossed anywhere at any time. Directly behind them waited the reasonable sized Millennium Park for me.

I did it as the locals do and just crossed the railway tracks.

But I didn’t take Indian logic into account. So once I reached the park, I was blocked by a huge wall with bared wire fence on top. As the entry to the south of the park is blocked by houses, I had to walk all the way to the north, between the tracks and the wall, for nearly one kilometer, until I reached the end of the park. Around the corner – and there all entrances to the park stood wildly open.

I thought I could also try the North and ended up in a huge, lovely nursery, full of heritage sites like tombs and also big stretches of greens. It is open to the public and the people had no problem with me walking through the premises. But when I asked at what time they open in the morning so that I could come for a run – the officer in charge told me the nursery is not for running and they wouldn’t allow it. Pfff.

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