Monday, July 25, 2005

I guess if you can't write anything nice ...

The capital of India. I'm been sitting here for ten minutes trying to think of its positive aspects. It has history. The throng on the street exudes vitality and a wild, frenetic energy. But best to remain sincere about the place ...

When you stroll about Paris, you cannot but remark its elegance and its beauty. Paris makes me want to give up my Australian citizenship and become French. It is the supreme city, and for me it will probably always remain without an equal. It's gorgeous and full of fabulous French people.
Delhi has another effect on me. Perhaps it is the mind-numbing and inescapable traffic congestion. The screeching idiotic touts who try to draw you into each and every shop. And the filth, oh, the filth.

The result of listening to an endless cacophony of blasting horns is that your shoulders meet with your ears, your neck muscles ache with tension. Why sound your horn when the traffic moves no-where? But it's not that. After several hours in this place you get wise, and construct a mental barrier that blocks the din of traffic and people. After several days, you are walk about in silence. Quite a feat, but one required to survive here.

Nope, it's the paralysing and unholy alliance of unchecked pollution, heat and desperate ugliness. Dhaka is also a screaming dungheap, but it has colour and movement and friendly Bangladeshis to recommend it. So too with rotten egg Bangkok. Even Los Angeles, a city in which architectural hideousness is spread more widely than anywhere else on Earth, can still pull you into its charm. But not Delhi. Nope. Nothing to be done. The capital city of the world's rising industrial and nuclear power is an national embarassment. It's a bloody disgrace.

I know I'm a man of simple, inflammatory remarks, but in Delhi I walk about asking myself 'How did it get to this, how can people be so uncaring, so neglectful, so lacking in aesthetic ideals'? The place makes me downcast. Infrastructure is poor. Pollution is everywhere and of every type. There is loads of money is this town, but what the Hell are the authorities spending it on? Quite obviously, not anything that will raise the living standards of the working classes. The enitre city looks exhausted.

If Dehli is a family size Cadbury Snack bar, then you need to cast aside the Turkish Delight and that horrid green minty one and just get stuck into the rest. Like the carcinogenic colorings of the mock-Pineapple and -Strawberry segements, Dehli can have dangerous allure. It's just not that good for you, and you need to consume it in small quantities. And to draw the analogy to its tawdry conclusion, Dehli-ites are also a bit like a Snack bar: brown on the outside and rather sickly in the middle ... don't taste too much too often, and, like ingredient listings on the packet, don't believe much that they say. This is where all 'the lying and cheating peoples' of India congregate.

But I like Delhi's 'regular' inhabitants, those not dealing with the tourist. I respect them and almost admire them for managing to survive in such a hostile environment. You would certainly need great internal strentgh and a solid constitution. Sure, I'm not thinking of the diplomatic enclave or of the rich; in any city these folk cocoon themselves into air-conditioning and chauffered cars, withdrawing from the unsavoury and the unpalatable. The common man on the streets of Delhi has my respect, I would not (want to) survive here.

However, I do love the bleak nightscape form the rooftop restaurant of my hotel. The transition from the real to the fantastical has always been an easy one for me, and if you've seen and remembered the opening shots of 'Bladerunner', then you'll understand the euphoria I feel in this murky nocturnal vision of the imagined future. I'm transfixed by the polluted twilight and flickering lights. It's all very exciting. It really is the city in which you can imagine Deckard arriving; through the filth and the rain, into a metropolis of innumerable retrobates (and replicants).

And maybe I look like Harrison Ford, if you squint really, really hard.

If we don't all start being a lot kinder to this planet, perhaps Delhi is the future that awaits us. In a science fiction movie this enchants me, but in my everyday existence I'm appalled that such places even exist.

Just too damn ugly.

1 out of 10, and that's only because it reminds me of my favourite movie.

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