Thursday, June 17, 2004

A day on Delhi roads

On a sticky summer Saturday afternoon, Rishi Chawla, a 20-something young man, crashed into my car.

I got off like most drivers do in Delhi but did not shoot off those mandatory phrases like most drivers do in Delhi. That is, I did not allege any intimate relationship with Rishi’s mother or sister.

Instead I asked him what seemed to be the problem. He, unlike other Delhi drivers, was apologetic and told me the brakes in his car were malfunctioning.

His girlfriend’s wardrobe too was malfunctioning from what I could see. A man in a Ford Ikon accused them of being in some stage of lovemaking. I hope it was one of the first stages.

I suggested he should get his brakes repaired before he continues with his city scan. He said sorry again and promised to heed to my advice. The light turned green and we separated. I wished Rishibhai luck as he zoomed past me seconds later on Mathura Road.

So how did I know his name? Well it was written in an abnormally large font size on his windshield. And his mobile number too. He had a press signboard, not sticker, on his front bumper. And on at least one side a New York Number. Add, a University of Pennsylvania sticker to boot.

At the next signal I stopped behind a Premier Padmini. When the signal turned green, everybody else continued with their journeys to wherever they were headed.

The family in Padmini, me and a man in the car behind me waited till the signal turned red again.

That’s when the Padmini's engine roared to go enough distance to make enough space for me to turn left and stand parallel to it. One lesson. If you happen to stop behind a Padmini, keep enough distance to manoeuvre later because the Padmini has got moods.

If that was not enough, right on the breezy Nizamuddin Bridge I was behind an Omni whose driver was having a lazy weekend. Being a stickler for traffic rules is very frustrating in such circumstances because the crawler wanted me to overtake from left. My honking was of no help.
I kept the faith and crawled about a couple of kilometres behind him till Noida More, when we got even.

At the Noida More signal, a 10-something beggar was knocking on the driver's side window of the Wagon R in front of me. The man didn't want to spoil his AC moments and ignored the begging boy, who tore off the rubber panel on his door.

The man had to come out and swear at the boy, who ran off. By the time the man sank back into his seat, the boy was knocking at my window. I didn't ignore him and came straight out. The boy just ran off to a distance and burst into a giggle, which would have been a pleasant sight if he was not as delinquent.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Wakaw in South Block

India’s new minister for External Affairs, Mr Natwar Singh, is a seasoned diplomat. He’s so seasoned that he recently reasoned how things have changed since he was on the right side of diplomacy 15 years ago.

Lots of people including yours truly were happy to see him in the chair that gave him an opportunity to show off the skills he's known for. Lots of people including yours truly are not sure about the cause of our initial happiness.

As it turns out, Mr Natwar Singh's initial days this time around have been so embarrassing one may feel that after retirement, diplomats retire from diplomacy too.

He's talking about NAM when many of us have forgotten its naam and what it stands for. The non-aligned movement died its natural death when there were no two blocs to align to.

He's also talking about reviewing relations with Israel, and China and Pakistan and Saarc and Cayman Islands...

He's right in saying all that but the tone and tenor of Mr Natwar Singh makes one doubt his residue diplomatic skills.

Foreign policy is not agriculture policy that one coming Sharad disposes what the going Sharad proposed. Foreign Policy is a process. It doesn't change with ministers. It evolves and changes with the world outside, not with the governments inside.

The shrewd general from across the border offered a special invitation to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President. And Mr Natwar Singh accepted the invitation and announced to TV mikes that Mrs Gandhi would go to Pakistan. Without the Prime Minister ever coming into the picture.

Accepted, he owes his ministership to Mrs Gandhi but was it necessary to undermine the Prime Minister in public and international view? At a time when the world, especially Pakistan, has realised that our crucial foreign policy decision emanate from the highest office, the PMO.

India's Foreign Policy has a solid foundation laid by Pandit Nehru and his colleagues. Then Natwar Singh was a young diplomat. He's a seasoned politician now, but looks like he's a bit stuck in time, Wakaw in popular parlance.

Kareena Kapoor's hair is all bottle blonde now. We always thought she was from one of those blonde jokes, now she looks like too.