An Italian in India
An Italian in India – Part 5: A Long Road from Culture to Politics
The Republic of India is the largest democratic country in the world. It represents the will of almost a billion people, expressing thousands of ethnic, cultural, geographical, linguistic and social structural differences. Apart from its castes and mix of religions, its political subdivision also brings some order to such a chaotic reality. Each state pretends to have a certain level of autonomy in its government, but it would be impossible for them to achieve it without fully recognizing a superior and central power to their representatives in Delhi. Without Delhi, there would not be any Indian Republic.
As a consequence, Delhi expresses the power of its institutions through its architecture as well, something that was true already before the establishment of the republic. The Red Fort had been built as a defensive spot, where not only the monarchs and their counts but also the population could have found safety in case of invasion. It is so colossal that it covers the area of a smaller city, within the area of the old capital. Inside the walls, today, even a bazaar and a museum find space between hundreds of historical buildings surrounded by flourishing gardens. It is impossible to explore it entirely during a single visit.
It is called the Red Fort, as it was built in the characteristic red sandstone. The white royal buildings create a suggestive contrast with the surrounding colours of the gardens and the walls. These gardens were characterized by the presence of few pools, which nowadays stand dry and unused. Curiously, when school trips visit a monument, the children leave their rucksacks unguarded outside the buildings, sometimes on the road.
In a southern part of Delhi stands the India Gate, a massive triumphal arch, also built in red sandstone. Surrounded by a huge garden, the gate stands at the beginning of an impressively long road leading to the Houses of Parliament and the President’s Residence. At the end of the road through the gardens, pedestrians must cross a road with twelve lanes before being able to climb the hill to these political buildings. On top of the buildings stand guards in the company of dozens of monkeys. Slightly further, the road ends in front of the entrance to the Presidential Residence, which is surrounded by impressive gardens.
This imposing road is characterized by the people that populate it. By the India Gate, thousands of tourists take pictures surrounded by poor people begging for money, selling pictures and food. Along the road dozens of carts stand in line, one after the other, offering freshly made cheap food, usually fried, and drinks. However, at the end of the road the landscape changes completely. The carts give way to military vehicles and the beggars become soldiers. The same goes for the gardens, where instead of people taking a nap on the grass, you see an army training camp.
By Alberto Gouthier