Back to Delhi at last! This city, my adopted hometown, has changed a lot during the years I have been away. I did break the monotony of long absences by visiting the metropolis once or twice for a week or so, but during such short trips one has little time to pay attention to anything but the most essential jobs at hand. For a retired person, however, time is not a scarce commodity. I have thus enough time to reflect on the changes I see in Delhi around me.
I must admit that I am thrilled to see that, as if by a miracle, the perennial water scarcity is a matter of the past. We – the residents of Dwarka (and those of most other Delhi colonies) – had got so used to seeing dry taps, especially during the long summer months, that even a few droplets coming out of them would make us ecstatic. In winter, the situation was only a shade better. We were at the mercy of what the media called the Water Mafia. Huge water tankers from private suppliers would make several sorties during the night to fill in the underground reservoir of our housing society so that we would have some water for a couple of hours in the morning. This activity of supplying water in tankers by private contractors, we were told, was illegal. We couldn’t care less! Sometimes the supplier would increase the rate per tanker on the ground that a new SDO had replaced the previous one. Naive as I was, I failed to understand the connection between water tankers and one Sarkari babu replacing another. Our supplier edified me on the matter. Every new “Afsar”, he explained, would for a few weeks, crack down on the violators of the law. Then, once the “end users” agreed to cough up extra bucks as demanded by the suppliers, it would be business as usual.
The situation is totally different now. Our underground reservoir is overflowing and the huge tankers have vanished from Dwarka streets like the great Sorcar made the Taj Mahal disappear in one of his magical feats. I thought this was simply because of less demand during winter but came to know that the water supply was equally abundant last summer. Our domestic assistant, who lives in a nearby locality, where fisticuffs over drinking water were a part of daily life, confirmed that there was no shortage of water anymore. And this is true of almost all parts of Delhi. Where all this water came from and why the last several years were so difficult are mysteries that are best left unravelled.
I was also struck by the significantly lesser number of cars on my drive home from the airport. This, the cabby told me, was due to the 15-day “odd-even” experiment of the Delhi Government which simply meant that personal cars with even numbers could only hit the roads on an even date. Delhites, for once, showed that they were by and large a law abiding people. I guess the Rs.2000 fine to be slapped on violators was a big motivator too. Although the experiment’s success in improving the environment is a matter of debate, its efficacy in decongesting the roads was all too apparent. During the 15 days that the scheme was in force, driving a car in Delhi was almost a pleasure!
When I think about the jam packed streets of Dhaka, I wonder if this could be replicated to give some welcome relief to road users there.
Speaking of changes, nothing really seems to have changed so far as Air India was concerned. The flight time from Dhaka to Kolkata was only half an hour but it took one whole hour before our baggage arrived on the belt. The performance at Delhi airport was marginally better as It took only 50 minutes for us to retrieve the two suitcases. To be fair to Air India, one must acknowledge that Bangladesh Biman – our carrier on the Rajshahi to Dhaka sector – was equally reluctant to part with our things. At Dhaka, when the trolley carrying the bags did arrive, after a short wait of 45 minutes, there was no one to put them on the conveyor belt. If we hadn’t collected our bags ourselves, I guess it could have taken one more hour. We are indeed close neighbours and good friends whose affinity to each other is evident in whatever we do!