At the JNU bus stop, a fellow at DU, India’s equivalent of Oxford University, was glued to her seat, seemingly immersed in a book and dozens of newspapers that had carried the Satyam scandal on all its front pages. Yet, the blockbuster film Slum Dog Millionaire was released in the market; there was so much attention and distractions in town that, movie goers and theatre enthusiasts were keen to have the wind dissipate before another agenda crops up. It did not take a long time for Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi to team up together and establish what was widely known as the extension of the Gandhi dynasty.
The vitriol coming from the ultra-Hindu nationalists and critics of the overzealous Islamists about the psyche of the nation, and about India as a sleeping giant prompted Varun Gandhi to spew hot and cold, hurting a section of die-hard Muslim preachers, saying: ‘I will cut someone’s head…’. In the midst of the Bollywood melee and the controversy that surrounded the Sanjay Dutt affair, the foggy weather prevailing in the capital made life unbearable for the lonely birds at IIMC. That night after watching the A.R Rahman’s interview, I thought of retiring to my bed but before going; I had promised myself to note: Lessons #1 never take anything for granted, in life anyone can make it if the individual tries. I figured out the message, it was not difficult to fathom; a rag-to-riches story of a poor Mumbai slum boy had defied the odds to become the millionaire the world is talking about everywhere.
On that fateful morning, India’s PM was scheduled to have his third bypass surgery, everyone believed that the odds were against the old man; therefore his chances of survival were dismally slim. On another wintry evening, a beautiful girl, with hair as long as the river Gambia, large eyes, slender body who sat next to me in the bus, said nothing but the countenance on her face said everything. It was a long and boring journey leafing through the bunch of newspapers and opinionated magazines devouring the highs and lows of India’s politics and society. In my personal jottings that evening, I decided to take note of the following; last night, after watching a Hindu film, I heard gun shots near the Priya market, it went on and on for more than an hour. Whilst the dogs were barking ferociously, I could vividly hear the snoring of my roommate, who, I was told had gone to town to dance his worries.
At Agra love garden, the picture was impressive as the original story that formed the bedrock of the legendary tale of a special love that defied gravity. The wind, the moist weather, and the multitude of pilgrims were reveling as if the goddess was ever present and ever watchful. The morning became too short for me, whilst the pen of the chronicler was drying up, because there were so many things to write home about. I began to regurgitate what I saw the day before, on paper; unpleasant fireworks at a big man’s wedding, the bride and the bridegroom, had been warned not to organize a colorful festival until the moonlight disappear. The organizers went ahead to throw up a party that went on till the early hours of the morning-full stop and end of story.
The Satyam scandal whirled and lingered on for several months; it was a story that knocked Indian elites and the establishment to its core; it showed once more that not all glitters was gold. And given the nature and gullibility of the opaque system that tend to promote and aggrandize everything in business and corporate governance, the Satyam needed to be told to dissuade the book makers not ‘sex’ things up to fool people. The newspaper and magazine establishment continued to feed us with junk and counter junk, enough of this rhetoric, said a bevy of young night club ladies who were keen to move onto something crispier and entertaining.
In page 10 of the diary, a class room interface with the manju of the bloc ended raucously; ‘F*** you, ‘don’t you realize that this is India, you are either here or nowhere’. When will Nepal stop using the back way of India to flood New Delhi with illegal immigrants? I went to bed with that rhetorical question.
As soon as I woke up, the noodles at the café shop came to mine; I briskly rushed forth to shake hands with the salesman who told me he had just returned from the pre-dawn long walks in and around JNU. Do you know that Salman Rushdie is an Indian? The salesman thought, I did not know. Of course, I replied, he’s an Indian; I told him that there’s a sword hanging over Salman Rushdie. Who cares? I noted in my diary when the salesman interjected.
Out at Nehru’s place, I noticed the glittering laptops neatly arranged, but not far from the elite market; a poor and homeless family struggling to collect waste papers and broken boxes to form a sleeping haven. ‘My son, the old man shouted, help us something to eat tonight, see, my children are starving, my wife and I have nowhere to rest our tired bodies’..
Oh poor thing, I wrote on my diary; so many brilliant and creative people are from this place, why can’t they do something to restore the pride and dignity of the Delhiites?
It was not until I visited the Zodiac at Jaipur that I came so close to the mystery of the largely unexplained world. Couple straddled together as they consulted the stars to see if the blissful marriage will work, not when their bodies were tired but till death do them apart.
My diary on that day was wet and sticky, some of the writings had disappeared; the only thing worthy of reflection was a connubial once in a lifetime wedding that took all the bystanders at the Zodiac by surprise. The procession was long, it was spiced by a Sharu Khan’s music that sweetened the mood of the visitors to horn their cars or clap for the wonderful spectacle. Snake charmers had to doff off their hats for the magic of spontaneity had stolen the show. Tacit reasoning was no longer a logical way of concluding the final pages of my about-to-be wrapped up diary; instead it was an avenue to refresh the pages and dust the narrative a little bit. I have just noticed that every good story should begin with a four-word sentence- once upon a time. That is why; mine has to begin that way:
Once upon a time, two foreign journalists were on a scheduled visit to the Sub Indian continent, to examine the legacy of Bapuji Gandhi left behind, but they had warned that an incredible India was too complex to unravel. One of them politely requested those three different categories of Indians to be invited at the airport to welcome them; a teenager, a middle-age and a senior citizen. The request was granted, the second journalist for his part, politely asked that a famous Bollywood actor be summoned.
On the day of their arrival, the plane carrying all-important guests disappeared from the radar, accidently landed in Beijing; suddenly on arrival, the first journalist said truly, this is incredible India, India is truly looking like China. But his colleague was visibly shaken as he unzipped his bag and clothed himself with warmer shirts to escape the freezing temperature.
In my diary, I wanted to confirm the names of the journalists and their nationalities, but there was no time to waste because language was a barrier yet a unifying force. So I left certain things unattended and moved on, despite my shortcomings I returned from Delhi a little confused and unguarded. How can I forget and dump all the good stories from New and Old Delhi? In time, everything else will be clearer.
By Ebrima Baldeh