Celebration time for Delhi
Earlier this week (December 12) we celebrated Delhi 100 to mark a century since our city once again became the capital following the coronation of King George V as the Emperor of India. The coronation took place in the North Western part of the city close to the Burari and Dhaka Dhirpur villages where the Coronation Tower stands today surrounded by a whole lot of Statutes of the British rulers. The area is also in the vicinity of the Kingsway Camp where the troops camped for the historic occasion and many of the soldiers stayed in Barracks in the Outram, Hudson and Reid Lines. What was significant about the occasion was that it was Delhi’s first step towards becoming a modern city and the foundation of New Delhi, which was to be originally called Imperial Delhi, was laid today (December 15).
We all know that Delhi is one of the oldest capitals of the world, perhaps as old if not older than Rome, Athens, Cairo and Beijing. It has history written under every brick and has monuments, which take us back in time to even eras before Christ. There is also this belief that Hastinapur and Indraprashta, old names of the city existed during the time the Mahabharat was fought. Those who ruled Delhi subsequently cite Purana Qila, the Bhairon Temple next to it and Suraj Kund in Haryana as structures that existed then though Purana Qila was later repaired and reshaped.
Being a Delhiite, I do not find any city more beautiful and captivating as the modern capital of India. There are those who consider Delhi as a crude and uncultured place but at least I for one do not agree with such observations. Delhi is a city with a soul and grows on you as years go by. For someone like me who was born and grew up here, there is a memory attached with every nook or corner.
While it is for the historians to highlight the earlier history of the city, I will confine myself with the celebrations of 100 years of Modern Delhi, which naturally includes old parts of the walled city, which are as intrinsic to its existence as the new parts are. Lutyens and Baker planned and executed the concept of New Delhi which our later planners somehow abandoned to allow whole lot of ugly structures to come up. The expansion took place without much thought and political expediency compelled the ugly growth in several parts. From a city of 2.40 lakhs in 1911, Delhi today has a population of nearly two Crores. Obviously this huge population influx is eating into the city and affecting its infrastructure. Delhi today is the fastest growing metropolis and needs constant attention if it has to keep pace with the growing demands and increasing population. It has produced many political leaders of great insight but somehow the vision has always fallen short of rising expectations. But each of the leaders have tried their best to make the city more liveable.
The biggest problem with Delhi is that the majority of people who live here do not consider it their home. Former Chief Executive Councillor Jag Parvesh Chandra used to say that Delhi was everyone’s mistress but no one’s wife. What he meant was that the sense of belonging was missing.
There has also been a debate as to who is an original Delhiite and who is not something, which needs to be avoided as it threatens to divide the city on regional and parochial basis. Other than those who lived in Delhi about 100 years ago, the new migrants included Punjabis displaced from their homes by the partition. They became a part of the city because they came here to stay and had nowhere else to go unlike many other migrants who followed later who always had the option to return to their home states. Former New Delhi Member of Parliament, Late Prof. Manohar Lal Sondhi used to always say that the Punjabis civilized Delhi while many others who came later criminalized it. Of course there are many who may not agree with this assumption at all and find Punjabis to be a part of the problem here.
Since there is no one who is alive who has seen Delhi being transformed in the last 100 years, we have to rely on those who have seen a sizable portion of this century to make any kind of observation on the growth of the city. What is most significant is that Hindustan Times, a newspaper, which has its roots in the city and was founded in 1924, is the best reference for the events that took place in the years that followed. Being also the only paper, which took up the cause of the freedom struggle as against its many opponents now, which were owned by the British, Hindustan Times, has a shared history with this city. It was therefore hardly a surprise when HT Editor in Chief, Sanjoy Narayan and Resident Editor, Sudeep Mukhia finalized the plan for bringing out Delhi 100 series in the paper. It was in fact hard work put by many young reporters like Sidhartha Roy, Manoj Sharma and Abhishek Dastidar under the overall supervision of City Editor, Shivani Singh that resulted in some of the best pieces ever written on 100 years of Delhi. All of them need to be complimented.
For me, Delhi has a long way to go and it is time now that we should look towards its future. How we can make the city livable for posterity and how we can regulate its growth and keep the infra structure intact. It is a task, which cannot be left to only our politicians but has to be achieved collectively. Each citizen has to be a stakeholder in the city and that is the only solution for the future.