The Regeneration Game

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Khan Market , New Delhi

The signs of regeneration are all over Delhi. Billboards proclaim ‘DELHICIOUSLY YOURS’ throughout the city, and  it is. The pace of work completed between June and now are staggering – the air-conditioned metro, Delhi’s prize feature, works efficiently; lights decorate various hubs of tourist activity and promote a warm, festive atmosphere; and customs takes only ten minutes to get through, as opposed the the previous hour. These are the positive aspects of regeneration and they indicate how far India can go and how much could have been achieved minus the corruption scandals and the delays.

Walk a few metres away from all of this, however, and you are confronted again with real Delhi – unpaved streets, buildings fallen into disrepair and open sewers perfuming the air. There is no sign, however, of the customary wallahs – the newspapers are full of tales of people returning to collect suits from streetside tailors only to find they have been moved on; cigarette wallahs, barbers, fruit-sellers, as well as beggars and the homeless – all have mysteriously disappeared without trace or concern.

According to some Delhi residents affected by the migration, their maids and their families were simply told to ‘leave Delhi for twenty days’ – the duration of the Games and the days preceding and following. Those who did not comply willingly were forced; shacks burned up in inexplicable circumstances and not all dwellers were recompensed. It is an open secret in Delhi that many of the poor were herded to a large slum outside the city, but it has been made extremely difficult for activists and media workers to photograph or document it, and those living there who have tried to fight back have been effectively dissuaded.

Regeneration is a game, of course, even if its prizes do not glide by neatly on a conveyor belt, and so it follows that not everybody wins.

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The Delhi Eye – A Symbol of Innocence and Inexperience?

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With the Commonwealth Games slipping into their final days in Delhi, other construction efforts are rushing for completion in a similar manner. Located away from central Delhi, in Kalindi Kunj gardens on the banks of the Yamuna River, the 45m wheel aspires to evoke comparisons with its more famous London counterpart. However, like much of the city, it remains unfinished and unused, with it’s location unknown to most locals and with the RP20 entrance fee to the gardens likely to prevent it being enjoyed by all levels of society.

It does boast one feature that the London Eye doesn’t – a VIP pod equipped (as rumour has it) with a minibar and a television. In case the view from the top proves underwhelming.

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Are the Commonwealth Games Inevitable?

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Delhi Graffiti, 2010

India is due to host the 19th Commonwealth Games in 11 days. Instead of a continuation of the initial warm support lauded on the South-Asian country as it takes strides to rank itself amongst the political and economic world players, the tone has turned to one of reservation and, by the frankest commentators, criticism. Given the problems plaguing this autumn’s quadrennial sporting event, it is difficult to know which would be worse: the staging of a Games riddled with disgruntled athletes, dubious infrastructure and security concerns; or a cancellation altogether.

The fact that with less than two weeks to go participating teams are seriously considering not going and there is open talk of cancellation among various sporting authorities suggests that the Unthinkable is actually very thinkable. The unstoppable “inevitablility” of Mega-sporting events is a myth. A dangerous myth because in Delhi (as in Athens 2004) workers have been killed by the ruthless logic of its timetable.

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The Downside of Commonwealth ‘Jugad’ : Mega-Event Footbridges

Grafitti Athens 2004

Graffiti Athens 2004

Images of the collapsed footbridge neighbouring New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru main stadium have made front-page news across the globe and shone unflattering light on India’s Commonwealth Games preparation. The Games, which are due to begin in under two weeks on the 3rd October, have been dogged by whispers of corruption, corner-cutting and a lack of leadership. Such whispers have recently descended into deafening shouts as concerns are voiced, by laymen and ministers alike, about the quality of construction efforts. Newly-erected buildings have been left in varying states of dilapidation due to annual monsoons, and the athletes’ village has been denounced as unfit for habitation.

It is possible that such a high-profile setback may become a symbol of the dangers of rushing regeneration into cities and societies unready for it, given that it has ultimately caused more destruction than good and more haste has resulted in less speed. Similarly, another footbridge closer to home, though still un-built, has also caused destruction. Manor Gardens in East London, a 100-year-old allotment, was wiped off the map for an Olympic footbridge, and though this footbridge may not fall apart, the loss of this historic and green site is perhaps a troubling indicator in itself of progress for the sake of thinly-defined progress.

If the concept, as well as the spirit of jugad is alive and well (the idea that things will get done, by hook or by crook), then organisers may be hoping that what is quickly turning into a Commonwealth debacle is only an exception that proves the rule.

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London – Delhi 2010-2012 Exhibition

Exhibition 5 February – Sun 28th February 2010

Location: Watermans

The London – Delhi 2010 – 2012 Exhibition will be showing at Watermans until the 28th of this month.

London-Delhi 2010-2012 is a digital arts collaboration between artists and young people in London and Delhi, creating and sharing contemporary stories of their two cities.

The research areas that are being explored touch upon large scale structural changes that are happening in Delhi and London, the social worlds that get impacted through these changes and the zones of flux and uncertainty about ways of life that these produce. London-Delhi 2010 -2012 will draw on the different perspectives and transformations of these two cities, each with the eyes of the world upon them, as they prepare to host Delhi 2010 and London 2012.

Learn more about this project:

London – Delhi 2010-2012

Riverfront – Workshop Film

Riverfront – Spectacle’s Film

Watermans

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London – Delhi Exhibition

Exhibition – 4 February 2010

Tonight is the private viewing launch of creative media exhibition, London – Delhi 2010-2012.

London-Delhi 2010-2012 is a digital arts collaboration between artists and young people in London and Delhi, creating and sharing contemporary stories of their two cities.

The research areas that are being explored touch upon large scale structural changes that are happening in Delhi and London, the social worlds that get impacted through these changes and the zones of flux and uncertainty about ways of life that these produce. London-Delhi 2010 -2012 will draw on the different perspectives and transformations of these two cities, each with the eyes of the world upon them, as they prepare to host Delhi 2010 and London 2012.

Read More:

London – Delhi 2010-2012

Watch:

Riverfront-Workshop Film

Riverfront-Spectacle’s Film

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