The river bleeds black
Circa September 2007: River bank, semi-naked men, soaking gods
It’s noon when we reach the banks of the river. And yet the harsh sun cannot pierce its black waters. It’s disgusting to think I wash my face with this water every morning. The government says it ‘treats’ this water. The government says many things.
There is a flash of blue in the water. It’s a polythene bag from the fancy store, Westside. A flash of gold. A recently immersed idol of Ganesha; next to a lump of…. One had recently eaten and did not want to verify that lump. Splash! A boy dives in… right amidst the plastic, Ganesha and lump. Only the top of his head and eyes can be seen. Then he goes under the surface of the water. Under the lump.
He comes out two minutes later and spits out something. What? He swims back and holds out his hand. A cube of some sort of metal rests on his palm. Apparently, devotees throw these cubes into the river and the boy (and more such boys) dives in to pull these out. The cubes sell at Rs 70 a kilogram and are inscribed with words, alphabets and symbols. One of the inscribed words is Ram. But the government says there is no Ram. The government says many things.
“Eww,” she says, holding her packet to throw in the river. “I didn’t know the river was this dirty,” she says to friend, as she pays another boy to immerse her Ganesha amid the floating lumps. “So don’t add to it then,” one had opened one’s big mouth again and instantly felt like a lump. “I know,” she said, with a weird look on her face, clutching her polythene packet tighter, “… I work for an NGO; but, years of habit, religion… Where else do we immerse our gods then?” Where indeed: The Arabian Sea, Hoogli, Ganga, are all taken. Teesta perhaps? We have many rivers, much water, says the government. The government says many things.
Flashback April 2007: Home, toilet flush, boiling babies
The nameplate reads, “So-and-so, DRYCLEANER.” This person’s neighbours are a butcher, three auto-drivers, Mishraji and yours truly, having recently moved to the colony. Most others have lived together for the last two decades or more. They ‘share’ everything: Parking space, water and cable connections and even helpfully borrow from each other’s electricity supply. But things changed.
Mishraji – in one of his let’s-read-the-paper-loudly-for-no-one moods – announced that our locality was one amongst many more to have ‘some’ water trouble. This was before Mishraji still read newspapers and had not declared violently that they were only good for thwacking people. So we had water trouble. Mishraji broke his back lugging water buckets. Mrs Mishraji cracked her voice rationing the water. Mishraji got into a fight with Colonol Sahab – lives on the floor above the Mishras – because the Colonel’s pots were overflowing while Mishraji’s Sintex-tank was dry. The drycleaner’s year-old baby erupted in ugly, pink boils because there was not much water to wash the baby properly. All private water tankers refused to enter the colony because they were beaten at the gates and the water was stolen.
One needed water as well and lugged two buckets of water every morning and evening. Water conservation is an art. One would stand inside one bucket and bathe, to reuse that water to flush the toilet. One considered using the open fields for further water conservation but was daunted by the sheer numbers already heading towards the fields. A good idea always has many takers. And the government says Delhi has no water shortage. The government says many things.
Circa October 2007: Sheila Dikshit’s iftar party
We stood there patiently, in dirty jeans and harem pants while the other media and bedecked politicians clamoured for Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s attention and her feet. The media bent high and low for the right angle, the visitors bent low for her benedictions. Everybody smiled, everybody ate and the Chief Minister posed with everyone, for everyone. With you, for you, always.
All people fit on her lawn and there was room for more. It was a huge lawn. It was moist. One saw sprinklers. They could perhaps fill 18 buckets of water. “Not now,” the Chief Minister told my colleague as our paths happened to cross. Happened to, because while we had not changed our standing-spot since entering her manicured lawns, the Chief Minister’s frequency of appearing exactly where we stood and generally looking in our direction had increased. Perhaps it was because we were the most inappropriately dressed for a party at the Chief Minister’s house. We didn’t know the Chief Minister would invite us for a party; she had so far refused any interview. We wanted a byte, she offered bites instead.
Five hours later, she spoke to us. She said development was needed for Delhi. Development for her means the Commonwealth Games village. It’s on the riverbed of a dead, black river. But the Chief Minister and her government say the river will be cleaned. The government says many things. The games village is also being built on a fault-line that will lead to earthquakes. But the Chief Minister says, “development has to take place.” The Chief Minister says a lot of things.
The Commonwealth Games village will also concretize the last ground-water recharge zone in the capital, the floodplains of the black river. But the Chief Minister says Delhi has no water trouble. Of course there are none in her house. The Chief Minister says adequate trees will be planted, so far no plans have been heard. We have proof the government doesn’t have the approvals. The Chief Minister says she has all. The Chief Minister says a lot of things.
PS1: And we believe her. Why?
PS2: READ the official stories -- we did two parts -- Delhi's death trap and Games village, sitting duck,
see the VIDEO 1 & VIDEO 2 and
the PROOF that we got for YOU (please go to end of story to read the documents). Decide for yourself.
Does the Chief Minister say the right things?