||What if Barack Obama was a Delhi neighbourhood?
[By Mayank Austen Soofi; picture by Dari-Freeze]
Not long after Barack Obama claimed victory in the Democrat party nomination for
the US Presidential elections, actor and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’
s wife, Maria Shriver said, “If Barack Obama was a state, he’d be California.
Diverse. Open. Smart. Independent. Bucks tradition. Innovative. Inspirational.”
What if Barack Obama was a neighbourhood or a landmark in Delhi? What would he
be? The Delhi Walla talked to eminent people in town.
Siddhartha Basu, TV producer
Barack Obama would be India Habitat Centre. He, like the IHC, is the new kid on the
block, unlike the conservative India International Centre.
Samit Basu, novelist
Obama would be Khan Market. Non-Americans like us cannot vote for him but it is
still important to be heard talking about him. Just like Khan Market where we can’t
buy all that expensive stuff but still go there regularly to be seen. Besides, like the
Market, Obama is always going to be ‘in’.
Lesley Esteves, queer activist and travel writer
Barack Obama would be Gurgaon with its gleaming skyscrapers and flashy new
malls living beside school violence, widespread police brutality and random crime
against motorists; its abysmal lack of cheap and efficient public transport, juxtaposed
with a world-class expressway that is seeing an increasing number of fatal speeding
accidents; its huge penthouse apartment complexes that have to be protected by
platoons of the rudest security guards. A brash newness which looks flashy and
impressive from afar, but scratch the surface and you see the many pitfalls of
inexperience just below.
Himanshu Verma, art curator
I think Obama will be PVR Saket. The hangout is as wildly popular as Obama. No
matter how many multiplexes open in Ghaziabad and Janakpuri, everyone still wants
to come here. Besides the crowd here happens to be the liberal young lot, pretty
much like his supporters.
Sunil Gupta, photographer
Obama symbolises the fruits of liberal capitalism, and so he would be one of those
glittering skyscrapers in Gurgaon. They both are success stories and a phenomenon.
Anjolie Ela Menon, painter
Obama will be Nizamuddin East. This residential neighbourhood is not only about
rich businessmen and powerful bureaucrats. Its leafy lines have bungalows that are
home to poets, thinkers, writers and painters. Nizamuddin East is cosmopolitan,
modern and specked with rich fragments of history, just like Obama.
Shruti Ravindran, journalist
Obama would be Connaught Place. It’s got the complex, shaded history, the UN-
blend of racial diversity in the crowds streaming down Janpath, the swanky Ivy
League background in its five-star-hotels, the up-to-the-minute cultural insta-
popularity in the subterranean buzz of Palika Bazaar, and banners proclaiming all the
right causes in Jantar Mantar.
Danish Hussain, theatre actor
Obama ought to be Delhi’s most happening spot, which should be zingy, modern and
clearly what kal ka Delhi would look like. Half a decade ago, Gurgaon would have
qualified but it disappoints now. Today no area qualifies for an Obama-like appeal. If
anything gets my vote then it is the web of Metro that we’re creating across the city.
Sadia Dehlvi, author
Obama would definitely be Nizamuddin. The area, both East and West, represents
our diversity at its best. Residents here include people from the mainstream and
those living in ghettos. There are scholars, lawyers, artists, writers and politicians.
The possibility of Obama’s presidency is the stuff American dreams are made of and
Nizamuddin is the stuff Indian dreams are made of.