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A letter to the games visitors

A letter to the games visitors
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First Published: Fri, Sep 24 2010. 08 56 PM IST

Gold class: India’s real national sport. Mayank Austen Soofi/Hindustan Times
Gold class: India’s real national sport. Mayank Austen Soofi/Hindustan Times
Updated: Fri, Sep 24 2010. 08 56 PM IST
Dear guest,
Welcome to India. Don’t be offended if everyone here refers to you as foreigner. It’s meant to be a compliment.
Hospitality comes naturally to us when we’re dealing with foreigners. Even our best, most overpriced call girls have gathered in Delhi from all parts of India, only to welcome you. And by now you know that if you get shot at while sightseeing, the home minister will rush to pay you a visit in hospital. Don’t think that’s normal behaviour for our ministers. When a pedestrian bridge built for the Commonwealth Games collapsed this week injuring more than 20 workers, we referred to it as a “small” incident. I’m sure many officials muttered to themselves: Thank God there were no foreigners…
Also Read Priya’s blog
Gold class: India’s real national sport. Mayank Austen Soofi/Hindustan Times
When you inspected the athletes accommodation we had built so swiftly for you (we build faster than China, I swear, and with fewer bags of cement too), you said you weren’t happy with our hygiene standards. You were aghast when you saw employees urinating out in the open.
Everyone’s hygiene standards are different, responded Lalit Bhanot, the secretary general of the organizing committee. He’s predicted that we will win more than 75 medals and stand third in the Games. Of course, if more athletes drop out because of just-another-day-in-India events such as dengue, terror attacks, leaky Games venues and badly maintained toilets, we might even win the Games.
But surely you did your homework on India and Indian toilet habits before picking us to host the Games? Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the Sulabh sanitation movement that runs 7,000 pay toilets, once told me that less than half of these are used regularly because we don’t want to pay to pee.
Pathak said our fear of toilets goes back to the Puranic period when it was suggested that we should not defecate near human habitation. Back then, we typically walked a distance from our homes, dug a pit, and did our business out in the open. “No house had a toilet so there was no habit of cleaning the toilet,” Pathak told me.
What can I say? This country and its women have changed dramatically but Indian men remain just the same. Despite some weak attempts by the city to educate/fine them, they continue to be the slovenly kings of our public spaces. This situation is unlikely to change any time soon. One statistic I encountered said India needs to build 112,000 toilets every day to meet its 2012 sanitation target. Meanwhile, don’t try to stop a Delhi man from peeing, is the only helpful travel tip I can proffer. They’ve been known to kill over arguments on public urination.
Here are some other travel guidelines that might help you understand us better. Paan stains are the only lasting impression many of us will leave behind. We never accept responsibility for our mistakes. We’ve spent the last few months distancing ourselves from the Commonwealth Games that we believe are a National Shame (these last two words must be yelled out in your best Arnab Goswami voice. You don’t know him yet? You will once you come to India, I promise).
Try not to make fun of us, we don’t have a sense of humour. We roll down the windows of our new BMWs only to fling out the garbage. We love our car horns more than our cars. We love writing Bunty loves Pinky on our World Heritage monuments (you should engrave your name on one of Delhi’s many historical structures—I guarantee you won’t be arrested). We kindly adjust, but we will not flush. We don’t believe in public sports facilities, don’t have any sporting spirit and still haven’t figured out why we invited you here in the first place. We don’t understand foreign concepts such as personal space—try to avoid queues while you’re in India. Luckily for you, most of us won’t be around when you arrive; schools are on holiday and the domestic travel industry has ensured we have hundreds of great escapes to pick from.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy your visit. India is Incredible. And Delhi is usually fun without Dilliwalas.
Write to lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Sep 24 2010. 08 56 PM IST