Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Top 5 Commonwealth Games Pet Peeves

Today, we're 'nitpicking' the CWG: Theme Song Drama, 'Heritage Toilets', and more--

I've written a lot of essays about the Commonwealth Games over the past year.  You can read them all here.  Even the funny ones, like last Thursday's post on the CM's PR problems, have really been about serious issues.  Issues like waste, corruption, and exploitation, and pollution.

But now our leaders are telling us it is the time to"stop nitpicking" and start celebrating.  That sounds like a good idea, but it made me realize that I've been so busy writing about the really "big" issues, that I've actually not given myself time to do any proper "nitpicking"!  So before I can stop, I'd better start. Besides everyone knows what happens to nits that you don't pick...

So today I'm going to vent a bit about all those small--and in some cases medium sized--annoyances that have come with the Games. Just once.  Then, if necessary, I'll get back to serious critiques of serious things--or, failing that, irreverent critiques of serious things.  

In reverse order, here are my Top 5 CWG Pet Peeves:

5.  Shera the MascotI first felt the Games were in trouble the day I saw Shera the mascot. I confess: I cringe just a little each time I see him. He looks like he was designed by a student in fifth class--maybe he was. But a teacher should have given a bit more help! Appu was much more appealing. 

4. Theme song drama. Lay off of A R Rahman.  Yes I know Oh yaaro, yeh India bula liya’  is not the catchiest song in the world.  No, school children are not doing cute dances to it, and nobody I know has gotten it stuck in their heads--in other words, it's not 'Waka Waka' and it's not 'Jai Ho'.  But you know something is wrong with the world when a Group of Ministers starts asking for re-writes to a theme song for a sporting event.  Can't they spend some of that time cleaning up the mess in Bhopal?  We all know the only reason this song getting so much attention is that we were hoping an amazing theme song would somehow save us.  It won't.  Let's get over it.
Dig, re-dig, dig again!

This water bubbles and stinks.
3. Details, details! All over Delhi, too many things "little" things aren't getting done because the MCD is working "round the clock" on the CWG.  Like the service lane at right, which has been dug up several times in the past year.  When it was dug up last, sometime in May, nobody bothered to put the tarmac back.  It's not a "big issue" like the CP fiasco, but it's annoying.  Or look at the blocked sewer main, pictured at left.  That is not rain water, my friends, it is stinky sewer and it's been bubbling away for at least 100 days.  So far, no response from the Delhi Jal Board in spite of numerous complaints from neighbors.  Things like this are happening all over Delhi. It stinks.

2. Silly Traffic Fines.  Last Friday, Delhi policed announced: 1) those driving illegally in special CWG lanes would receive Rs. 2000 fine on the spot; and 2) those who failed to give way for ambulances would be receive Rs. 100 fines--though there will probably be an "education" campaign first.  I guess it's good to see the Delhi police admitting there is a problem here--I almost never see anyone give way for an ambulance in Delhi.  But the fact that a fine for getting in the way of a CWG vehicle is 20 times that of the fine for getting in the way of a person in need of urgent medical care is silly.  If CWG lanes are important, keep that fine.  But Rs. 100 for blocking the way of a potentially dying person? That might work for auto rickshaws and two wheelers, though I doubt it.  But for the owners of private cars? No way!  For them, 100 rupees is the equivalent of a fancy espresso drink--or the daily wages they pay to one of their servants--certainly not the kind of deterrent that will lead to a change in behavior!

'Heritage Toilet' in Def Col.
1. Five Star Toilets--The MCD has promised to build 50, Five Star, "heritage toilets" around Delhi. Officials say that not only will the toilets be "better than those found in five star hotels," but they will be 'green'.  According to this report in Mid Day:
The toilet block is designed with a green concept, fitted with solar panel for lighting and central air-conditioning. "It has a sewage treatment plant and rain water harvesting facility too," said Shitul Patel, representative of Patel Engineering Limited, another partner of the project.
Mid Day says the toilets will cost a crore each. The official  that spoke with me on condition of anonymity (OK, he was a chokidar) said he'd heard the Defence Colony toilet would cost at least five crore.  Who knows.  Who cares? The last time I was there, a couple of weeks back, the toilet was still not ready. I was disappointed, because I was curious to see what a 5 Star Toilet looked like. My son was also disappointed; he needed to pee.  I told him he could hold it or sneak into Barista.

Whoever thought of this silly idea? The Mid Day article says there will be a coffee outlet or flower shop above these toilets.  What kind of a business plan is that?  First, Defence Colony already has plenty of flowers and coffee. Nobody is going to tell their friends, "Hey, let's meet for coffee above the giant toilet in Def Col!" And do you really want to tell that special someone that the flowers in your hand were bought above a '5 Star Toilet'? Not so much gross, as tacky, that. As for welcoming tourists to Delhi, can you really imagine anyone saying, 'Here's a photo of us in front of Red Fort; here we are in front of Qutab Minar; and here we are in front of a giant 5 Star toilet made to look like it's an ancient monument--Delhi is so World Class! And they have good coffee, too...'?  It's not going to happen.

Sorry, this was a stupid idea from the start, which is why this is number one on my Top 5 CWG Pet Peeves list!  Build some good, clean toilets for people who need them. Make the tourists go to Barista to pee. Enough said.

If you are interested in the serious issues, check out our CWG page.

And if you want more than a change in slogans, take a look at ACORN International's Commonwealth Games Campaign or help fight the evictions at Delhi University


  1. @Janice--thanks. Just had to get these off my chest. Glad you stopped by.

  2. Very well written :) I loved your little piece on "5 star toilets" :)

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