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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Delhi Litter Festival

(A slightly edited version of this article was published in the print edition of the Times of India in April 2015)

I have a complaint. There is so much brouhaha about the Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF), a recent phenomenon, while no one seems to care a
bout another, much older, cultural phenomenon called the “Delhi Litter Festival”. Unlike the #JLF, the #DLF has been around for decades, nurtured by the proletariat as opposed to the crème de la crème of the #JLF.

The legacy of the #DLF is built around the age-old Indian fetish for cleanliness, that is, sweep your verandah and deposit the outcome in front of the house of the neighbor you love the least. In modern times, the art form has also flourished vertically in DDA housing societies. The municipal corporation contributes to the festivities by letting free market dynamics operate without any hindrance. The result is the omnipresent vibrancy of detritus, bearing the marks of human civilization. You can see Domino’s rubbing shoulders with Aggarwal Sweets, condom nestled beside a baby toy, empty bottles of Kingfisher and cough syrups embracing Amul milk sachets, torn lingerie wrapped around last year’s government of India calendar, and such like.

Unlike the #JLF, the #DLF is a permanent exhibition spread over Delhi’s gali-muhallas, commercial centers and boulevards. The young and the old alike are continuously adding to the variety and volume of exhibits by hurling trash from balconies, tossing gutkha and chips pouches over their shoulders and ejecting KFC and Mc-D cartons from BMWs and Audis cruising at 90 kmph. Finally, in our bid to become another New York, the big melting pot of cultures, the #DLF has also embraced influences from other states in the form of paan stains all over town, providing a lively ochre background to the cultural tapestry that Delhi has become, courtesy the biggest festival of them all. Not to be outdone, almost all Indian cities and towns have lapped up the idea of the #DLF and have organized such festivals of their own.

However, all is not well in paradise. Last heard, an insensitive government was planning to close down the Delhi Litter Festival under the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”.

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