Let Us Save The Magnificent White Walls From Turning Into Dust: The Connaught Place Restoration Project [Part 1]

Posted on September 14, 2012 in Environment

By Sumedha Bharpilania:

I firmly am of the opinion that it was a conspiracy on the part of the three Goddesses of fate that landed me in the big, bright city of Delhi. I was always fascinated by the place, by the multiple charms it possesses, the hustle-bustle and the liveliness. I distinctly remember visiting the city several times during my growing years: walking by the streets of Chandni Chowk, doing all that I possibly could to hug the iron pillar at Qutub Minar, visiting distant relatives in the most obscure parts of old Delhi and gorging on a big bowl of hot chocolate fudge at Nirula’s and feeling like the luckiest kid in the world. However, there was, or rather is, one memory, that is so crystal clear in my head, that no amount of time can act like the mist and take the picture away from me. Connaught Place with its massive pillars enrobed in white – a white so brilliant, that I had to blink several times to adjust my eyes to the same, with its million corners lined with books- old and fresh alike, with pages that you could smell from a distance.

That same Connaught Place emanating the aroma of butter chicken that mingled with the fragrance of yellowing pages to create a most exquisite perfume, with its smiling people and nonchalant shopkeepers and with that surreal atmosphere- one that I find difficult to put into words till date. I remember holding onto my father’s hand and walking round and round, till I felt dizzy because of all that walking in circles and still managing to muster enough stamina to walk some more.

Time flew, like the birds perched on the square, whom I absolutely loved to chase, years passed, I began to live alone in what is now referred to as the rape-capital, but none of that deterred me from continuing to walk in circles and soaking up the sun shining upon those same massive white walls. Except that I have to mind my step every now and then in order to avoid falling into a pit dug in accordance with the orders of those who run the nation. Those people in authority, whose functions are making sure that the people fall into the grave the country is gradually turning into.

The Delhi government, by virtue of its several agencies such as the Delhi Development Authority, the Municipal Corporation Of Delhi and the Public Works Department has been seeking to restore Connaught Place to its glory which it exuded once upon a time. Full fledged work began a little before the Commonwealth Games in 2010 but sadly, was reduced to a crisis akin to the sort Mr Suresh Kalmadi had to manage. The result for both was, as very evident, failure and a miserable one. The lack of accountability on part of the labourers and contractors, constant shifting of deadlines, the continued abandonment of the project resulting in added chaos and the perpetually increasing costs (last heard, it was somewhere around 671 crores) have made life all the more difficult for the various shopkeepers and the commoners who cannot help but continue to show their unconditional faith and affection towards the place.

Also, the humongous number of permissions that were and still need to be sought, in order to go about the restoration project clearly highlight the red-tape and bureaucratic delay our country is plagued by. This reminds me of a story I had once read as a part of my Hindi literature syllabus in school: Krishan Chander’s ‘Jamun Ka Ped‘ where the author very appropriately described how a lot of useless governmental paperwork resulted in the loss of someone’s life, all revolving around a mere fallen tree. The present conditions surrounding Connaught Place are nothing but similar. The grandeur, the magnificence is lost somewhere in the dust it is encompassed by. The life of this place has been sucked out by virtue of the lack of action on part of the government employees, thus reducing it to an eyesore of sorts.

The heart-wrenching picture that Connaught Place paints with those hundred cars untidily scattered around the many circles, the dirty blue barricades and of course, the dug-up alleys calls for immediate action by those in authority to bring back the charm that it once held. Connaught Place is to Delhi what the Statue Of Liberty is to New York and the Eiffel Tower is to Paris: if the very symbol of the national capital is as sad as this, there can be no bigger shame for India. The last time a friend held my hand in order to prevent me from slipping and falling into one of the many gigantic pits, as I was blissfully walking towards Wenger’s to grab a chocolate éclair, I could not stop myself from recalling to memory a phrase I had once read on the walls of a tiny mosque situated near a flyover construction site in my hometown, Kolkata: ”Idhar bhi khuda hai, udhar bhi khuda hai, jaha dekho, bas khuda hi khuda hai’

Hindustan Times has taken a lead on this, to ask the Chief Minister to commit to a deadline and finish up work by that deadline. A petition has been compiled here, for this urgent need of restoration. We urge all citizens to sign it and save CP from turning into a forgotten fragment of the glorious history of Delhi.