If I had to try my hand at running India, like Jim Carrey in 2003’s Bruce Almighty or Salman Khan in the forthcoming rip-off God Tussi Great Ho , I would introduce an (updated) freedom charter. Since I’m not Ms India, we won’t talk about poverty or peace.
Freedom from paan
I’ve met so many tourists who think Mumbai’s roads are blood-spattered and last week my aversion to the red stuff hit a new high when a man followed me on Delhi’s main artery, Janpath, and intentionally spat a giant mouthful of paan all over my back. By the time I turned around in shock, he had run away. “Is Delhi really full of such dirty people?” said my horrified maid, Anita. “And that’s where the Prime Minister chooses to live!” I’m moving to Delhi by the end of this month and I promised her I would investigate the matter closely.
Moving pangs: New Delhi, here I come. Photograph: Madhu Kapparath / Mint
But paan lives on every street and staircase; if we were an X-Files episode, paan would be our Black Oil. Think about that the next time you stain your mulmul ka kurta.
Freedom from harassment
I’m sorry but I’ve never been spit on before. And that, too, in a city that is going to be my home for the next couple of years. Delhi is the most unsafe city in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2006 statistics. A third of the rapes and a fifth of the molestations that happen in India, happen in Delhi. Sure we can insulate ourselves from crime by keeping our interaction with the city minimal, but is that the way we want to live? Thank you, Supreme Court, for finally saying that a raped woman’s testimony is evidence enough to prosecute.
Freedom from Reliance products
Ever since Anil and Mukesh Ambani fought and split the business, the Reliance logo has become omnipotent. Together, the brothers sell everything from noodles and insurance to cellphone connections, pillows and shoes. For those of us who grew up marvelling at Dhirubhai Ambani’s entrepreneurial skills, does it even matter if a product is from ADA or MDA? Reliance is Reliance, and it’s everywhere you look.
Freedom from mobile maniacs
I have a fight every single time I watch a movie in the theatre. And soon, the mobile menace will spread to the air. Emirates recently said that travellers booked on their Boeing 777s would be able to stay in touch with friends and family while flying. It’s only a matter of time before our airlines do the same. Imagine being stuck on a centre seat with the woman on your left instructing her cook what vegetables to make for dinner and the man on your right yelling at a colleague for an overdue report. If we can have no-smoking zones, we can certainly have no-mobile zones. Mobile phones are equally injurious to health.
I could go on, but there’s so much to read in our special independence issue.
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