Saturday, October 16, 2010

New York state of mind

The drive into Boston, Massachussetts from Logan International Airport was notable for one feature: crappy roads. But any smugness I may have felt about that had already been cancelled by the enormous picture on the front page of The New York Times that morning, which showed a stadium in Delhi looking like a bomb site that could just maybe double up as the venue for the swimming competition, if you don’t mind competing in floodwater.

The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games 2010 will take place in Delhi tomorrow, and I do hope everything goes well, because the CWG needs another fiasco like it needs a hole in the… oh, wait. But really, I’m just saying that.

I remember feeling all het up about the CWG not that long ago, but then, on a wi-fi enabled bus barrelling from Boston to New York down a silky interstate highway, I realised that I now have only a vestigial sense that there was once something, somewhere in the world, that was bugging me for some reason. I’ve been reading occasionally about collapsing beds and fake bombs in stadia and unsightly people being booted out of town, and I’m trying to care, but the sight of fiery fall colours under an iron sky, of concrete canyons, and fifty nationalities in one metro car, is beating outrage hands down.

The closest I can get is a tepid consideration of the schisms that have sprung up between Indians over the whole thing. We were a perfectly integrated country before the CWG came along—and by country I mean, of course, set of Facebook friends—compared to what we have become: cleft into rival camps of Cynics and Patriots. Either you have to hate everything about the CWG, or you have to love it blindly. It’s like the Montagues and the Capulets: you’re either for us or against us. Sick-of-cynicism and sickened-by-jingoism would duel at dawn, except that they’re not talking for long enough to make the appointment.

Being a champion of moderation—if not in my own life then in everybody else’s—I’m going to gently suggest that it’s possible to be fair: cheer the good stuff and jeer the bad stuff. This may be confusing, because it will no longer be possible to think of each other as either unremittingly pessimistic or blindly loyal, but why not give it a shot? Black and white are classics, but grey is such a beautifully textured colour.

The pavements around some parts of Delhi look great, and in some cases when I say ‘look great’ I mean ‘now exist’; parts of the Commonwealth Village and some of the stadia look good at least in the photographs; and the airport is a darn sight nicer than it used to be, stupid carpet notwithstanding. Organisers’ rampantly misused and mismanaged public funds, there’s third-rate construction in several places, and the excuse that it’s been raining is contemptible because our super duper Indian wisdom and science has warned for five thousand years that during the monsoon, it could well rain, so it’s probably best to get stuff done before it arrives.

There, see how easy that was?

But maybe this wishy-washy middle ground is only a side effect of an enthusiasm deficit. Partly, that’s because it’s been an emotionally exhausting haul to Sunday, October 3, and when one is plumb out of time, resignation sets in.

But mostly, it’s because I’m in New York City, and everything in the world pales by comparison. Good luck to the CWG; I’m taking a break from caring.

No comments: