Delhi Fragrance

The heat and dust of Delhi may be somewhat cumbersome. However indolent one may feel, this does not detract from , its charm and fragrance.

For one I love the lush green trees that make Delhi a garden megacity. While in Delhi one has to become a Delhiite, otherwise one misses the essence. But what I like best still is the early morning chirpings of birds especially the loving languorous call of the koyal. No wonder for ages poets have been fascinated and inspired to write their profound verses. Indians are a poetic people: poetry is in their DNA. This poetic touch can be felt in any Indian right from the common man, the corner chai wala or paanwala down the street to the topmost person. Did not Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, infuse in us some of these poetic touches during his memorable historic two-day sojourn in Mauritius for the 47th Independence Day celebrations?

Kejriwal’s Entanglements

While one prefers to have a glass of lassi to cool down Delhi’s crisp but dry heat, here Arvind Kejriwal however seems to be getting bogged down into sterile but hot bickerings and controversies with the Delhi municipal authorities and local administration. He is second time Chief Minister of Delhi, yet somehow it is felt he is squandering his overwhelming popularity and political power in futile controversies; this has angered workers and disenchanted voters. It would seem that AAM ADMI has an anti-gender stance which is infuriating women members of the party who have simply abandoned it. The female voices are getting louder in bringing out this feeling of gender discrimination.

Modi’s One Year at the Helm

While Narendra Modi’s visits to China, Mongolia and South Korea continue to make of him an international iconic leader and rock star sans pair, he is indeed demarcating himself from the old image that the world had of Indians. His persona for sure has broken the myth of the nationalist image people had of BJP. He has even beaten Obama as the world’s most iconic and charismatic statesman. He is the first Prime Minister of India to have visited Mongolia in history. In this he has made history in extending an East-East diplomacy, earning more connectivity and bonding with his eastern counterparts while reaffirming once more the Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai slogan. It had once so softened the Indian diplomacy an Indo-China border war followed and gave Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru a deep shock from which he could not recover. But Modi also drives home wherever he goes the message of the ancient civilizational ethos of India.

As Modi sets about to celebrate the first year of his reign with a big rally and showcase the big bang achievements of his government this week, people have nevertheless started asking questions. Modiji is no doubt still popular. Maybe people expected too much too soon, wanting a miracle on such tough fronts like education, environment among others. . There is no doubt that as regards corruption not even the Opposition has been able to point a finger so far. Maybe if Modi has the collaboration of other non-BJP Chief Ministers, this transformation that he so much desires will come, to put an end to poverty, to build not only smart cities but also make smart Indians with innovative mindsets and a reordering of attitudes. For example, to make of India a Swacch Bharat and bring a sauchalay to every home, already one sees the transformation. One brave bride in Maharashtra asked as gift from her parents a mobile toilet to be installed at her in-laws’ house! Taking this as a cue, other girls followed suit! The Clean Ganga Plan also is an ambitious one as it aims to bring economic prosperity to millions of Ganga plain dwellers and farmers in its wake. Certainly if all this takes off then Modi would have achieved a good deal of his vision, mission and dream for India.

Malini Awasthi’s Dance Ballet

Thousands of people flock to Delhi in search of greener pastures! For better jobs, education, adventure and richer life prospects, coming from all over India and different states. Which makes Delhi one of the most desirable places to live in by virtue of being the Capital city of India as well as offering a multitude of opportunities. I like this ad I saw on an auto as I came out of the Indira Gandhi International Airport: ‘Dil is Deal’! Indeed Delhi too is a deal. Take it or leave it! But the other side of the coin is that people who flock here from all over India feel a sense of erosion of their roots and traditions at the same time. They still want to remain rooted while enjoying the facilities of megacities and cosmopolitan life.

This is what I witnessed at Malini Awasthi’s wonderful stage musical show depicting the traditions being slowly eroded in a Hindu wedding.

On my India trip this week, where I am attending meetings and giving keynote addresses at the Benares Hindu University and Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith Univeristy as well as being honoured at the Rastriya Bhojpuri Sangam in Allahabad-Prayag, I halted a few days in New Delhi: Malini Awasthi, world famous Bhojpuri folk singer, who was with us last year for the 180th anniversary celebrations at Aapravasi Ghat and the Antarashtriya Bhojpuri Mahotsaw, invited me to her cultural programme.

Losing Moorings in Mega Cities

This show entitled ‘Doli Saja Ke’ was staged on Tuesday 19th evening at the prestigious Kamani Auditorium.

It was a refreshingly delightful musical with Malini and 40 artists depicting in a dance ballet the nostalgia of a traditional Hindi marriage with all its traditions slowly getting lost in the megacity. It brought so emphatically the ethos, substance and emotions associated with the Hindu marriages, which are slowly getting eroded courtesy modernity and its westernised culture. In the process of migration and the flux it creates Delhi exerts both a push and a pull.

People are losing the deep inter-family relations and atmosphere of intimate bonding that was present formerly in Indian weddings. With today’s wedding planners taking over from family elders, caterings, receptions and Bollywood style extravaganza, weddings are losing that vibrancy and love and family intimacy of former times.

The anxieties of modernity are felt here in Delhi too. Such shows of Malini Awasthi are a call to sensitizing the Delhiites to their own ancestral heritage, and bring an awareness that they should protect, preserve and promote their intangible cultural heritage – their virasat – while enjoying the good things that modernity provides.

* Published in print edition on 22 May  2015

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