What do Dilliwalahs do in winters when the AQI is ‘very unhealthy’? They discard that razai, get into their branded winter clothing and move out of their homes. For the Dilliwallah, being the eternal optimist, the AQI of ‘very unhealthy’ is far better than ‘hazardous’. On one such ‘very unhealthy’ evening this blogger meandered towards old Delhi and on impulse decided to check out the rehashed Light and Sound Show at Red Fort. This show has recently been restarted after a gap of five years. And like most things in Delhi – the show has been rechristened too. They now call it ‘Jai Hind’ even though the earlier name had nothing to do with any community or caste. Seems to be a good move as it draws in even those Dilliwalahs who suffer from the Smriti Irani Conundrum of being perpetually confused between nationalism and patriotism (with even the University of WhatsApp offering no help).
Finding a parking slot around Red Fort continues to be problematic. Luckily one found space at the ‘authorised’ parking area facing Darya Ganj, near Delhi Gate of Red Fort, but soon discovered that they have stopped the plying of eRickshaws on the road adjoining the canal to access Lahorie Gate (the only entry open for the Fort). One is not even allowed to walk on this road for reasons best known to Delhi Police or the Dalmias – who manage this monument now. You have no other option but to take your Saarthi (isn’t that what they call the eRickshaws?) through the highly congested Netaji Subhash Chadra Marg, getting dropped opposite the Jain Temple from where you need to walk about 250 meters to the ticket booth. Once you get hold of your tickets you are guided inside the Fort complex which is yet another stretch of 200 metres. By the time you arrive on the periphery of Naubat Khana compund you are slightly tired having walked more than a kilometre with the winter evening chill certainly not helping your cause. One spectator, seeking directions for washrooms was promptly directed towards north of Naubat Khana by an official. She came back cribbing loudly (that’s so Delhi!) that the loos were too far away. Thankfully she neither blamed Nehru for it and nor did she blame Shah Jahan.
Soon you are ushered much closer to Naubat Khana but there is no sign of seats as yet. You are supposed to stand and watch the introduction. Amitabh Bachchan grandiloquence fills the air and he is faking today as ‘samay’ (time). You are given a perspective – half of which you miss despite it being a good act because you keep looking around wondering whether they will make you sit at all or not. To have endured this journey from parking lot to this point on a cold winter evening seems to have taken its toll. This version of the show has actors performing live on the platform along with audio-visual projection. For some reason the king and his immediate family are represented as ‘big-heads’. One consciously makes it a point not to read any symbolism here. Thankfully, they now ask you to move in front of the Diwan-e-Aam and you gleefully gallop there to park your tired body on a chair. You realise how tired you are when you continue to sit on these dew-wet chairs that soak your backside wet! So while the king’s ass is on fire on stage – yours is wet. Some form of social justice this. The actors put up a spirited show though some Dilliwalahs may have issues with the construct or narrative of the show but then the Supreme Leader comes live on the walls of this great monument and you get the perspective in a flash.
Show over and you realise that you have to trot back that length again. Wish someone tells the Dalmias that battery-operated vans or even golf carts won’t take anything away from the history or the Light and Sound Show. Jai Hind!