an open question on Delhi’s future

As I round out my final chapter (the manuscript will be finished on Monday!), I want to get some input from you, the readers. Obviously our book is about Delhi as it was when we were there, but I want to provide some perspective from those who were there longer than us. So I turn this over to you:

1) What is the biggest change in Delhi in the last ten years? (Infrastructural, cultural, economic, or other…)

2) Are you optimistic about Delhi’s future? What do you think Delhi will be like ten years from now?

Thanks! There’s a chance I may be quoting you.


21 responses to “an open question on Delhi’s future

  1. 1. The infrastructure has been the biggest change compared with the other options. Earlier even though the traffic level was marginally low but the time taken to travel was still hefty. Infrastructure development has taken place in reference with construction of flyovers, metro to increase ridership on public transport, subways, malls and separate parking lots. Bus Rapid Transit was introduced but wasn’t implemented efficiently although it has proved to be a boon for people in Brazil and Paris.

    2. With commonwealth games approaching (even though the preparations are going at snails pace) there are developments bound to take place. In 10 years time, infrastructural development would continue however personally speaking Delhi needs to change socially as well.

  2. sometime back i over heard two girls chatting at CCD in a shopping mall .one of them said ” Delhi Guys are good for party but Bangalore guys are marriage material ”
    you might want to use it in your book 🙂

  3. 1) I’ve been too short here to judge, so I won’t answer this questions but
    2) i’ve been long enough to try answer the second one.

    What will Delhi be in 10 years? More or less – the same thing as it is now. There will be infrastructural improvements, but the essence of the city – and this I concider not embassies and super-rich crowd, but simple auto, chaat, etc wallahs, will not change much. I don’t believe that it will become much cleaner, organized or “cywilized”. It will still be messy and “jugaad” ruled monster-of-a-city, with raisins of “western” developements. Gurgaon is a perfect example of how Indian city’s grow – it had a chance to be super-modern, a city of business built in the middle of nothing. But even here the developement carried along all the old sins and burdons. It might take just few years to see the same kinds of infrastructure as in western world in Delhi, but will take generations to change “how” are things done in India – planned, consructed and maintained.

  4. 1. Nothing can beat the Delhi winter – “Delhi kee Sardi”
    2. The taxi driver can beat Michael Schumacher every time if Delhi Roads were on F1 circuit.

  5. Parthiv Haldipur

    I think the biggest change in Delhi in terms of infrastructure in the last few years has the Delhi metro. The metro has made the life of a daily commuter fairly bearable. In a city where local buses don’t run as per schedule, the metro has been instrumental in providing the average Delhi’ite some relief, that too because it has connected the opposite ends of Delhi – North to South and East to West.

    While I am optimistic about Delhi’s growth and transformation into a world class city, because of its world class roads, the Delhi metro and so on, what is saddening is the attitude of the average Dilliwalah. While a good number of them proudly call Delhi their home, not a lot care about the city. Dilliwalah’s aren’t particularly civil in a number of respects. The use of dustbins, following lane and traffic discipline, waiting in line at bus stops are all sights that can never be seen in Delhi, while the same are followed religiously by citizens of other cities like Mumbai and Bangalore. So i feel, while the future does look bright for Delhi, it will be difficult for Delhi to be in the same league as New York or London, unless the ‘average Dilliwalah’ changes his attitude towards his city.

  6. I have been born n brought up in Delhi and after finishing my Bachelors, I moved to Europe in 2002. I have been visiting Delhi pretty much every year since then. Though when I went to Delhi in 2007 after 5 years, it was like a shock in terms of so much changed in my city (esp. South Delhi 🙂 and i enjoyed the changes). Offcourse oen of the biggest thing was infrastructure + metro, as mentioned in prev. comments also, which is def. a plus for a city of size of delhi; but I thought alongwith that , the attitude of Delhities also changed quite a bit (apart from driving :D), esp. with information being available and being shared lot more easily technology. Young people have lot more opportunities in term of work, doing out-of-box things and lot more openness in the society. There are still lot of things holding us back but its just a start.

    I have high hopes for Delhi being a great city to live in, in next decade. Though sometimes I have doubts due the policies of delhi politicians. It won’t be like London or New York, but I don’t want it to be like that; Delhi has it own charm and along with our culture – it would be one of the best places to have the best of west and east (atleast imho). Though again sometimes i think, would have I said something like this, if I hadn’t lived in europe n US. But I def. think Delhi will be much better than now.

    The last decade was the first of the major changes and the future will be better (hopefully we’ll make some good policies)

  7. I am not Delhite and haven’t lived here long so you may discount my opinion accordingly. But I feel very strongly about one point.

    Delhi’s reputation of being unsafe for women is going to hurt it in long term. I’ve seen my friends and collegues making decision to leave out Delhi from their options (assuming they had comparable option elsewhere) because they or their partner find Delhi unsafe.

    Two other factors which are negative for Delhi in my mind are: (1) extreme climate (2) general rudeness of Delhi public

    A very good factor about Delhi is its infrastructure. No other city in India can match that yet, and Bombay doesn’t seem to be able to come close in next 20 years.

  8. I agree, it must be the infrastructure. While traffic has gotten worse all over India in the past ten years, Delhi is working pretty hard to address the problem (although, still, monsoon = unable to drive because of flooding). The best roads I’ve ever been on India have been in Bikaner (not sure why that is), and the new parts of Jaipur have good traffic patterns. But Delhi’s roads are changing quickly, and the Metro is expanding at a tremendous rate. Also, the airport improvements must fall under the heading of infrastructure.

    The other two things I would say have dramatically changed (really, since 1992), are the growths of the upper middle and the extreme lower classes. The monied classess have really made an impact on the shape of Delhi, expanding first to the south, NOIDA, etc. The northwestern parts of Delhi are growing more quickly than I can even explore them. Coupled with that is the growth of a more permanently located homeless class (i.e., slum areas). The acreage has grown almost as quickly as the wealth in the pockets of the upper classes and the construction of the Metro.

    Optimistic? Sometimes. Like most outsiders, I wish India would learn from the mistakes of the U.S. and Russia, and not slaughter the environment in the name of development. I don’t know how you can say “improve your lives, but don’t do it like we did it,” though. So, I guess I envision just like I envision the rest of the world–one day soon we’re going to be reaping the rewards of over-development.

  9. Not a seasoned delhiite (lived in UP mostly), but being the outsider some things hit me harder. Delhi is too impersonal. People are like disconnected entities floating about in vacuum. Reminds me of a hindi phrase they use for the city:

    “Ye dil(l)i nahi be-dili hai!”
    “This is not Delhi this is just heartless”

    Hmm.. it sounds weird in translation. Maybe someone can provide a better translation.

  10. we have changed so much over the last decade. the biggest one, apart from the other changes (no less significant, but i had to select one) was the explosion of mobile phones. everyone and their grandmother has one now.

    in 10 years, i expect delhi to retain its USP, the jugadu lifestyle, while assimilating the best the rest of the world has to offer – in true Indian style! – Take the Delhi Metro for example.

  11. 1) more cars -> indefinite traffic jam
    At my time 1995-97 there have been only Ambasadors, Padminis and scooters. The occasional site of an other car make was an event.

    2) Urban area of New Delhi will have the larger population than the urban area of New York

  12. Delhi is a mixed basket. With economic growth has come obvious social ills, including a rapidly widening income gap and a population that increasingly isolates itself in material goods. As much as Delhites boast of the city’s uniqueness, its path is no different than any other city. As the city grows exponentially, becomes more spread out, and more impersonal, its people stop caring about, or even acknowledging, each other. The communal mentality that defined Indian life in my grandparents’ and parents’ generation, where neighbors greeted each other every morning, popped in unannounced for dinner, and lent a helping hand in hard times is now lost beneath a pervasive materialism and inescapable paranoia toward others. This change is painfully obvious in Delhi, and we only need look to America to see its fated end.

  13. *suburban America.

  14. “If you are looking for India, the real India you will find many and you will find none” – me 🙂

    Quote me or not but quote Galbraith:

    “India is a functioning anarchy”

  15. Delhi’s future will depend on the smarts of this generation. I am an expat who is seeing droves of expats in the urban development field coming back with a zeal to change the status quo. In a span of 2 weeks i ahve met people who have taken on behemoths such as MCD and DDA to change their archaic thinking and structure. I have met Harvard graduates working on micro finance solutions for slum dwellers along with the khadi clad activists. It has motivated me to look to coming back as soon as I can and play my bit. The test of time will only tell if us young and enthusiastic Delhiites will stay the course or resign to the political/bureaucratic malaise that has its grip on Delhi, like our parents have.

  16. Dear Dave & Jenny,
    I have been following your blog for an age, as a silent lurker, but I will lurk no more.

    Both of you seem to love Delhi as much as I do, and in much the same way. I plan on buying 5 copies of your book, (the other 4 I shall distribute on people’s birthdays 🙂 )

    To answer your question – the answer is obvious – the only way for Delhi – is up. I have lived in this city off and on since 1991. (I was born there, but was elsewhere for an early period in my life.

    I remember what this ‘city’ was like in 1991. It wasn’t a city, so much as an overgrown village, with a swanky little area around Raj Path. There were no coffee shops, no Delhi metro, very little gurgaon or noida (with no toll expressways connecting them to Delhi). No such thing as a shopping mall. Khan market & GK1 were fuddy-duddy markets where women wearing Salwar kameezes shopped. There was no Maharaja mac. If you wanted to watch a movie, you inevitably conducted the ticket buying transaction behind the movie theater, with a shady character who sold you ticket at 3 times the price – and you sat in an area called ‘The Balcony’. You couldn’t breathe the filthy air, and you had to spend THIRTY-FORTY minutes waiting at a four-way crossing near a place called AIIMS. Or 30-40 minutes at a T-junction next to a movie theatre called Savitri. And for a beer, you snuck out at night, around 1am, drove out to the middle flat lands by the Delhi border, and spoke to a hole in the middle of a little stall, transacting some rupee notes for a bottle.

    In those days, people worried that there wasn’t any water or electricity in the city. That people were poor, and everything was going to hell. (sound familiar? 🙂 ) People spoke of a distant city on the west coast of India, which was ‘modern’ and ‘cool’, and the only place worth living in India (well they still think so). There were a total of 4 ATMs in the city.

    That was 19 years ago.

    But a nation of tea-drinkers took to coffee bars (good for you guys 🙂 ) They converted single lane dirt tracks to 4 lane roads. Everybody owns a phone. You don’t have to wait in line at the bank anymore. (ok, so you wait in line at the ATM). A shiny, spanking new train runs in the bowels of a 400 year old city.

    When change comes, it comes and hits you in the face – and most of that change, has been awesome.

    New Delhi will never be New York (although, I find sometimes that the New York Subway does smell a lot like New Delhi Railway station many times 🙂 ). It will always be New Delhi. And what an awesome city it was, is and will be.

    (Small note – I DO really hope women AND men someday get to walk the streets at any time of day or night without trouble – and that people actually learn to drive between those funny little dotted white lines on the road)

    🙂 Dave & Jenny, maybe it’s a little condescending of me – if so let me apologise, but hereby I name thee true Delhi-ites, and hope that you will someday share a chicken tikka roll with me in the Khan Market service lane.

    • Thanks for the great comment! And thanks for the honor… we look forward to receiving our keys to the city in the mail. 🙂

  17. * Delhi still seems to be unsafe. The increasing population and the rising traffic, i still dont know how are they managing to host the CWG 2010. To be very true, Delhi doesnt deserve to host the CWG.
    * People in delhi still need to learn to talk, walk and respect each other. They absolutely lack in sense of maturity. Starrring girls as if they havent seen any in thr lifes.
    * Unsafe for delhi women so how can they assure the security of foreign tourists.
    * The ROOT CAUSE of POPULATION is not being dealt with and rest everything is being done which will shortly be of no use.

    * 10 years from now, delhi will have a population as much as the whole indian population because of migrants from different cities to the capital and the ignorance towards the root cause.

    * Quality of education in school still sucks.

    * To summarize, ALTHOUGH THE CITY IS DEVELOPING, the people still lack the basic sense and decency towards each other. To improve the conditions of the city, individual improvement it uttermost important.
    But as they say in Delhi, ” WHO CARES ”

    From :

    A frustrated DELHIITE

    • I’m totally agree with you dear…I am as frustrated as you…the migrants here don’t have civic sense & they blame the delhites for this…

  18. The one thing that really made me proud of the city I have lived in for 25 years is the Delhi Metro. People say I praise it too much but for me it’s the one thing about this bustling city that’s truly world-class. Don’t get me wrong. I do love Delhi, its people and its culture — but the Delhi Metro is the one infrastructural marvel of the last decade that really matches up to (and perhaps surpasses) its New York and London counterparts.

  19. The biggest change (at least in my short life so far) was the emergence of the Delhi Metro. While a new transport system may sound trivial when compared to some of the other developments around Delhi, the Delhi Metro is one of those developments that heralds a new era of change and growth. Not only has it eased the woes of millions of commuters, it is an icon of change that represents all of India. From what I gather (needs confirmation), it’s also only the second Metro system in the world that’s running profits.

    Then there was emergence of the satellite towns Gurgaon and Noida. They both represent a hub of immense activity and development and are considered to be dream destinations by many.

    And finally, a mention about the population in the age bracket of 18-30, which you mention in your post about crime. These are the new thinkers of Delhi, and India. We are the people of believe in thinking ahead, and modernizing ourselves, while still retaining the best of our cultural traditions.

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