Maverick: The Idea of Noida
By Farzana Versey
Covert, November 1-14
“Have you ever been to Noida?” mocked the note. I have never been to Abu Ghraib or Waziristan and yet written about them. The query was not about me; it was about the individual addressing me. My words about certain despicable happenings in that part of the world had put him on the offensive. He could not accept that beyond his bungalow – perhaps somewhere close to it – a young student was raped and murdered, there was a house where many young women and children were raped and killed and their dead bodies too were not spared; these were dismissed off as scandals. I will never forget the first reports streaming in about the Aarushi case and the TV channel flashing “Papa tu ne yeh kya kiya” on the screen.
Such cases take up centre-stage for a while and then, even when fresh news trickles in, they are treated as desultory freak showers. Follow-up is unimportant. There is more space given to what Mayawati is doing with the park and how many monuments she will create. Significant as these are, in terms of cult projection and sponging on the state’s finances, there is little attempt to diagnose why a town cannot become a city.
This is not so much about immigrants but displacement. Noida was an extended arm of Delhi and one fine day it became a part of Uttar Pradesh. It might have always been a fisticuff, but it had managed to wear gloves. Now it was free to punch. It brought with it the investment projectile and transformed into home territory. It was meant as a retirement abode or a place that would appreciate financially. It was not designed for living.
This is probably why the two major crimes in the last three years have to do with this sense of inflicting power that springs from the conviction that there is no canvas or foundation. The Aarushi case raised questions about the family unit and how a rape and murder can take place without members of the family in another room being aware of it. The Nithari murders were a clear instance of the power elite consolidating a crime base away from their respectable moorings. Moninder Singh Pandher was arrested for using his house as a brothel, for bribing the cops and destroying evidence. That his servant Surinder Koli was a partner in the offence, suffered from necrophilia and even ate the corpses reveals something extremely disturbing. His state of mind is a minor player when compared with the state of the concept where master commits crimes, served to a large extent by his menial help, who is then left to partake of the leftovers. That the leftovers were human beings only buffers the belief about how such dominance seeks to set up its own system by subjugating those who cannot hit back.
It wants to destroy a civilisational module. Both the cases involved educated, middle to upper middle class families. In a larger city they get sucked into the tedium of putting up a façade of decorum. Suddenly, there is a windfall in the form of a satellite township just a few kilometres away. People who could not afford large homes are now the owners of sprawling residences. There is no need for upward mobility. Space inflates the ego. Without any additional attempt an individual is deemed successful.
While in Delhi an address might have seemed crucial as it provided a link to old money or newly-minted riches, distance makes the downmarket aspect of the address lose relevance. Spreading of the farm house culture has also come to the rescue. It started years ago in the capital but it was a reserved indulgence for most. Today, it is an alternative and has gained legitimacy rather than snob value.
The person questioning me about Noida was probably put off because this image was being destroyed. He wanted to know why I did not notice ‘worse’ things that happened in smaller towns. There is no moral fabric here. Virtue is a washable dye.
It is such transience and the hierarchical character of depravity that appears to give shape to the ideas within India.