Indian Decade

Commonwealth Concerns

Though months away, this major sporting event is already being met with unease.

As October comes closer, I am getting more and more worried. India is hosting the Commonwealth Games for the first time in Delhi in October 2010, and the city has been promised a face-lift to ensure thousands of visitors go back impressed with what a growing India can do. While we keep our fingers (and toes) crossed that things go as planned, considering preparations for the games have already repeatedly been marred by massive delays, shoddy thinking and poor on-the ground implementation, as the selfish urban resident that I am, I am also a little concerned about how life will change for me during the 3rd and the 14th of that month.

Already, we know that all schools have been asked to extend their autumn breaks through the entire duration of the games to ease traffic on the roads. One has heard that the Delhi government is also likely to ask businesses to encourage their employees to work flexi hours or part time, or to telecommute to get more movement out of the way. And, a few days back the Delhi government said it is going to release a list of do’s and dont’s, a guideline of etiquette, to reform Delhiites before the games. At a tourism conclave last week, Delhi’s Chief Minister said, ‘We want to change Delhi’s public culture, their behaviour towards each other and to guests…so that they are courteous.’

‘We want tourists to go back with the impression that Delhi is a sophisticated city,’ the minister also said.

As I have written about earlier, Delhi’s traffic is the stuff of nightmares, and I understand the need to keep it in check during a period of intense activity. Even the most devout Delhi resident will confess the city’s culture could do with more than a bit of tempering. But, as we prepare to showcase ourselves to the world, shouldn’t we just be who we are? And, even if we try our best to change, so quickly, can we pull it off?