Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Contrasts, Conundrums, Contradications

It's often been said that India is a country full of contrasts and contradictions. I'm not sure that there are really any more than any other Really Big Country and it maybe just that it's a combination of a different environment and taking life slower than usual that there's more to observe. So here are my top 5:

At number 5 - Cricket pitches
Cricket lovers will know that India have the best team in the world - and have had the best team for some years. They also have the world's best batsman - the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. So you might think that they have some great cricket facilities - or hoardes of cricket coaches - or millions of Rupees supporting the stream of world class players (I won't mention 'school sports partnerships'!)??

In fact it's none of the above. Instead it appears that every Indian boy just aspires to play for the national team and any piece of spare ground will serve the purpose well as a cricket pitch.

Just around the corner from my office is a case in point. By day, the cows and water buffalo stand and field - unaware that they've taken up a position at 2nd slip or silly mid-off.

At number 4 - Roads and speed humps
Many of Delhi's roads aren't in the best of shape, perhaps that's understandable given the weight of traffic. But really, there's no need to then place the harshest of harsh speed humps inserted indiscriminantly on these pot-holed strewn roads.

At number 3 - The Delhi Metro
Without doubt, all the people we've met in India are among the most helpful, supportive, thoughtful and caring people in the world. Nothing is too much trouble.

And then something happens to them when they enter the Metro system that makes them become the some of the most thoughtless, aggressive and uncaring people. Now I've been at busy train stations in the rush hour, including Shinjuku in Tokyo (the world's busiest), and nothing comes close to the terrifying prospect of having to exit a Metro train at Rajiv Chowk in the rush hour.

Although security guards are positioned at each of the doors as the train stops, they often stand helpless as what was a 'queue' (I use the term lightly) on the platform just a few moments previously, becomes a rowdy mass all desperate to board the train before others have disembarked.

             File picture of commuters boarding the Metro at Rajiov Chowk Station in Delhi. Photo: V. V. Krishnan

I could perhaps understand this if the trains were infrequent or unreliable but they aren't. The system is one of the best in the world - it's clean, punctual, cheap and reliable!

At number 2 - Pavement DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliancy 
I think the Delhi authorities are making good strides to improve accessability for persons with disabilities. For example, the Metro is fully compliant with the Indian equivalent of DDA. A lot of work has also been undertaken on the quality of the pavements. This includes textured paving for the visually impaired. Despite being in the Far East, this type of paving is in use on all our streets. The only issue is in the execution of the concept........


At number 1 - World Health Organisation vs Slum vs open sewer
On Delhi's ring road sits the Southern Asian headquarters of the WHO (The people who are the United Nations public health arm.....monitoring disease outbreaks and assessing the
performance of health systems around the globe).

Running adjacent behind the offices of WHO is an open sewer, which seperates that organisation from one of Delhi's slums.

Now I can't work out if the WHO use it as a daily reminder of their purpose or whether they've even noticed it....

Either way, something's not quite right.

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