Lessons from Delhi

Having just returned from a conference in Delhi, I noted a number of things in that city that Chennai could certainly emulate. (That doesn’t include the people of that city who make it such a rough and ready place that I would never want to live there.) But Delhi has been able to continually work at improving its infrastructure, so that it is far better today than it was ten years ago. Of course, the fact that it’s the country’s capital, and that its budget is more than that of the other metros put together helps, but it’s the consistent vision I’m talking about.

For one, it is long term. The newer parts of the city are planned keeping in mind the long term. So arterial roads are given plenty of room on either side for widening as traffic needs grow exponentially. There are a number of roads that are four lanes on each side. In contrast, the much talked about IT corridor is just about three lanes on each side. What will happen ten years from now when the city has expanded into the South? Where is the room to expand? Or the East Coast road; it’s just a dual lane carriage way that’s rapidly becoming too crowded.

Delhi certainly has a master plan that is implemented systematically. Hopefully, the Chennai Master Plan will be too, despite opposing political parties coming to power every four years or so (That’s true of Delhi, no matter which party rules). The other lesson we can learn from Delhi is to think big. Of course, it’s easier to do that when you’re talking about the capital of a country, but why should we be restricted in our thinking? If we are to be the commercial capital of the South, and a leading city in South East Asia, we have to think big.

We also have to set high standards. Whether it is the width of the roads, the quality of the lighting, public amenities, parks, buildings, open areas etc., we need to start benchmarking against the best in the region. Other wise we will continue to be a city beset with the problems of a developing country that is not able to rise above a certain level of development because of a lack of vision or aspirations in ensuring a better quality of life for its citizens. And why not? I believe Chennai is a far better pace than most cities because of the culture of its people. But we, the people, have to shed our ‘what ever happens its OK’ kind of attitude and demand the best of ourselves, for ourselves and from the government and other bodies such as the police and city administration.

Only then will we see a change in the city for the better.

18 Comments so far

  1. DesiGirl (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 2:02 am

    And they don’t even have metblogs! tsk! tsk!!

  2. sj (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 5:08 am

    Good points here David, however the point you made about Chennai being better than other places because of its culture is inaccurate.

    Chennai doesn’t really have any prominent culture only one music festival a year really aint much of a culture especially when the majority of people are from other parts of TN. As I said before Chennai thinks its has a culture but it doesn’t which other city in India is uncomfortable with speaking there own language you guessed it CHENNAI.So how can you say Chennai has culture I don’t see people in Delhi being ashamed to speak there language they hate people who do not speak Hindi there yet here people don’t seem to care.

  3. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 7:15 am


    I think ‘better cultured’ rather than ‘better culture’ should have been more appropriate there.

    Sorry Delhiites!

  4. david (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 8:13 am

    SJ thank you for your comments. However, I disagree with you. When I mentioned the culture of Chennai, I meant ALL the people in the city, not just Tamil culture. As a city, we have a better culture, I believe, than Delhi. It is more inclusive, welcoming and tolerant, and these are things to value. What you are upholding as virtues lead, I believe, to intolerance and is not inclusive. Whether we like it or not, today we are citizens of not just India, but of the world, and our cities will increasingly reflect that. Retaining our culture is well and good, and adds to the richness of the culture of the city, as will other cultures, making it a better place to live by enriching its social and cultural fabric. This is my humble view.

  5. vatsan (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 9:24 am

    David, u missed the most important advantage delhi has, it is a state by itself. which ever party comes to power, they will have to focus on improving delhi to stay in power, and politicians aim to stay in power.

    in madras on the other hand, improving madras does not ensure political survival.

    this is the biggest advantage delhi has

  6. Nilu (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 10:19 am

    Also, in Delhi, people don’t have sex with their cousins.

  7. sj (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 5:39 am

    Nilu you still seem to be frustrated again you are getting off the topic yet AGAIN, seems you are unable to stay on the topic we don’t want to know if you are having sex with your cousins keep that to yourself PLEASE.

  8. sj (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 6:51 am

    David thanks for your comments I agree with you that Chennai does have a diverse population however I find that Tamilians in this city are not proud of there culture they seem to adopt other cultures more as there own. Why is speaking a language which is not Tamil classified as being cool and speaking Tamil being uncool here?

    I don’t see this in Delhi there you have to speak Hindi no English nothing else with the majority population if you don’t comply you will be put into a corner even if you do speak Hindi with a different accent you are also put into a corner. You are saying we must accept other cultures that is fine but when I go to Delhi or any other part of India they don’t accept anything besides Hindianism.

    Last time I checked the majority of the population of Chennai was Tamils so why must we play second fiddle to outsiders here and accomodate them when we go to there state we are not welcome? My question to you is Delhi does not celebrate anything that is non Hindian so why should we celebrate Holi we are not Hindians?
    Chennai is the only city you will find with people fron other states who live here for generations and can’t speak one word of the local language this is nothing to be proud of Chennaities. Imagine if a Tamilian did this in Delhi they would be riddiculed at all levels of society. Delhi is better than Chennai in this regard its preserves its culture it doesn’t allow any other cultures to dominate or influence it unlike Chennai. Madras Bashai is a perfect example of this a language that is not really understandable by most people in Chennai except college students and it uses loan words from many other languages and just shows how much of a mess it is. Chennai needs to stop trying to become Hindian and aligning itself to mainstream HINDIA, look at Bangalore every Kannadiga I speak to is fuming at the fact that there culture is being eroded away due to them accomodating every Tom, Dick and Harry is this what you want to happen to Chennai also?

  9. Rajesh Kumar (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 12:05 pm

    Good post David.Certainly in town planning we need to do better and do it fast.

  10. Nilu (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

    I thought the topic was Tamil culture. Isn’t your sexual relationship with your cousins, my mother etc etc against Tamil culture? Shouldn’t you be going out o Madras? Go no.

  11. david (unregistered) on December 5th, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

    SJ thanks again!In my experience, many people in Chennai from other states speak fluent Tamil. I have met sardars settled here, Punjabis, Gujaratis-all speaking Tamil. They have to being business people, and they do it very well. many Tamils now speak Hindi too. Thats well and good-it will help them prosper in a multi-cultural India and a multi-cultural world if they speak more languages. My wife is Kashmiri, and she speaks Tamil too. So I guess its a question of if the door is half open or half shut-it depends on what you see!

  12. sj (unregistered) on December 6th, 2006 @ 7:20 am

    well David again I agree with you however you have been unable to answer some questions, why must Chennai feel it has accomodate everyone and then question which language is cool or uncool. Madras bashai is a language to be laughted at this is the Tamil spoken in Chennai or Tanglish if you want to call it that.

    Tamils having to learn Hindi is an insult multi cultural India is a farce the government wants all of India to have one culture which is HINDIANIZATION. What need is there for Hindi in Chennai? This is not a part of North India we are FORCED to learn Hindi David remember that not by choice I don’t think any Tamiliam would want to learn Hindi if they weren’t forced to unless they wanted to work in the North. India is a big mess that should have been left to function as independant countries.

  13. david (unregistered) on December 6th, 2006 @ 7:33 am

    Thanks again SJ, but I guess we will have to agree to disagree! You have drawn your boundaries around yourself very tightly, excluding so much that could enrich your life and that of others. I have chosen to include the whole world in mine as a world citizen, which in no way takes away from my identity as a Tamil or my Tamil heritage. But greatly enriches my life’s experience. This is the world of today. To deny this would, I suspect, be living in the past, and missing out on many opportunities. But these are choices we make I guess. So we have to agree to disagree, and respect each other’s view points. Thanks again.

  14. sj (unregistered) on December 6th, 2006 @ 8:05 am

    Daivd I guess we agree to disagree but you again haven’t been able to answer questions that I have asked. However how do you propose to maintain your identity your children will not be full Tamilian as your wife is a non Tamilian. I don’t think they will be accepted by the greater community as Tamil since your wife isn’t? Tell me would you not prefer to have TN as an independant governing country instead of being dominated by everything that is Hindian.

    Lets be honest at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony what representation was India given all of Hindian culture was highlighted nothing else was given any mention or importance. So don’t talk to be about being a world citizen when we are second class citizens in Hindia itself.

  15. david (unregistered) on December 6th, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

    SJ I have absolutely no problem being accepted, nor does my family. I really dont know which world you are in just now, but the more you pose your questions, the more evident it is how closed your mind is to other cultures or people. So lets just agree to disagree. PS. The last time I came across concern for the ‘purity of the race’ etc was during the time of Nazis and the second world war!

  16. sj (unregistered) on December 7th, 2006 @ 6:05 am

    I live in the real world, I am not targetting you but I know a few people who have mixed marriages and there children do suffer many issues. There parents now regret the decision they made, maybe you will to some day when your children face the real world which will be anyplace outside of Chennai where they will be referred to as half caste. But then maybe this doesn’t bother you since you are so open minded and all and I am not.

    Since you are unable to answer any of my questions how does that make my mind closed to other cultures? Remeber you will always be treated as a second class citizen in HINDIA no matter how open your mind is going to be so lets leave it at that.

  17. david (unregistered) on December 7th, 2006 @ 6:59 am

    Thanks SJ, but I choose not to answer your questions but point you towards what can enable you to find the answers. You have those questions because you feel isolated and closed in by the cultures and people around you. And in time, its this kind of attitude that will determine who will become a, in your own words, ‘second class’ citizen in this country. While those who are more inclusive will forge ahead in a multi-cultural environment like the youth of today.As for caste, I dont believe in the caste system.

  18. sj (unregistered) on December 7th, 2006 @ 8:42 am

    Well David I don’t agree with anything you say here I know the answers to the question I asked but I wanted to see if you are able to answer and I got my answer. As far as living in a multi cultural society I have lived in places that are far more diverse than Chennai and have been able to be survive. Note Chennai aint that diverse just because there is a few people from other parts of India is no big deal. It is only in Chennai and Hindia that I am treated differently by people here. I know many people in Chennai who would prefer to have TN as a seperate country not be influenced or controlled by HINDIA which you are being controlled by but can’t see.

    Maybe you don’t want to face the facts but Hindia is anti Tamil in every sense, do you really know what your fellow Hindian friends really think about you or Tamils in general? Take a look overseas you won’t find many associating with each other but they are trying to kill each other as has been highlighed in Canada.

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