While at journalism school, I and many of my friends harboured dreams of one day becoming war correspondents. It seemed to be the ultimate story to cover—to be in the midst of world-changing events and reporting from the frontlines of the battle.
Alas, it’s something I haven't yet managed. But last week, I unexpectedly found my way into a warzone. Here was a scene of wanton destruction—civic buildings on the verge of collapse, underground sewage cables tangled in knots and obstacle courses for roads. Think jumping over gaping sewage lines and traversing wobbly planks of wood to get where you’re going.
Unfortunately, I hadn't needed to head to Beirut, Afghanistan or Iraq to experience such a scene—all it took was a 30-minute drive from my home to Connaught Place, Delhi's iconic business and shopping destination that’s now in the midst of a ‘renovation.’
Built in 1931, Connaught Place is a horseshoe-shaped Victorian structure that has defined colonial-style architecture in India. Indeed, in many ways, it’s symbolic of Delhi. So, when a few years back plans were made to give the structure a sprucing up and to upgrade its central park to make it an even more bustling destination, all of us celebrated.
But what has happened to CP, as it’s popularly known, could move even a non-Delhiite to tears. The entire area was shrouded in a blanket of dust. And getting to the building I needed to reach was no trek for the faint-hearted.
The worse thing, though, was that there seemed to be no urgency among the construction teams that sat atop huge mounds of dust. I was in the area around 4 p.m. and many of the workers still seemed to be just coming off their afternoon siesta. Forget making the deadline for the Commonwealth Games (which city authorities have confessed they’re sure to miss)—the state CP is in at the moment I don’t think we’ll ever get it back the way it was.
I had promised myself I would spare readers of this blog another entry whining about the unforgiveable inadequacies of our government departments as they prepare Delhi for the games. But, when you see something as precious as CP fall into such ruin, it’s impossible to stay quiet.
I just wish we'd let the 80 year-old be. Helping it age better is the biggest disservice we have done to it, yet. Far worse even than the years of neglect we’ve shown it.