No Parking

Delhi is a city bustling with people working for and with the government, as well as of course those working against the government. The latter cause the former and everybody else to remain perpetually nervous, and no amount of security appears to seem adequate. I’ve lived in India most of my life, and in Delhi for a fifth of it, but the amount of barricading and policing I see now is something else altogether. Of course, India’s population has grown and with it I’m guessing has the police force. So, I could be seeing their larger numbers. However, I suspect that the growth of Indian police has not been in proportion to the population growth rate – it may be much slower – but boy, do they stand out.

The other explanation is that I could be seeing a greater density. On many days as I commute to and from work, I pass by many different consulates, or the periphery of India’s massive presidential palace, or one of the large blocks of buildings housing different ministries and the sort. The consulates and embassies are heavily guarded more often than not – save, may I say, Ethiopia’s Chancery, which unfortunately looks very desolate, almost lonely. Most embassies have signboards all along the walls instructing people hopeful of receiving visas and their agents, friends and relatives (because many things in India are done as a united family) to queue up standing straight and not sit at “unauthorized places”, to not carry any cellphones or bags, to not talk loudly, smoke, drink, spit or even pee along the walls. Little do they know that in the ambience of consular royalty, even the most uncouth Indian becomes a model, disciplined citizen. Other signboards warn people against taking stopping their vehicles, parking or taking photographs. But surely the prize must go to the US embassy – they’ve appropriated an entire public road to themselves, barricaded at both ends, where entry is permitted only to those with the most appropriate credentials. Its not the most important road in the city, but it connects two bigger roads and I find having to take the longer road around very ‘amusing’.

Security at UN offices in Central Delhi is astonishing as well. It took me over 10 minutes from getting off my tuk-tuk (quite clearly the lowest mode of public transport possible in central Delhi, and one that caused the 3 security men to become inherently suspicious of me) to entering the office, going through multiple rounds of clearance. Police patrolling has become more high-tech since I was here last: from fairly sorry-looking jeeps to fancier SUVs built by Toyota, flashing lights and neon signs that flash “Delhi Police”. I wonder what else the neon signboard atop one of the SUVs could say.

No Parking?

Abhijit

avisaria@sas.upenn.edu

twitter.com/avisaria

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