Helmets: A Casualty of Politics

Does the Chief Minister of Delhi have the balls to change the helmet law and make it mandatory for women to wear helmets on motorcycles?

It appears not.

The High Court has ordered the city to amend the helmet laws.

The city is reportedly not going to cooperate.

The Chief Minister can save the lives of women who will die on Delhi roads.   Yet she’s weighing the decision to make helmets mandatory for all people on motorcycles, against the interests of a large and powerful voting bank:  the Sikh/Punjab community.

Federal motor vehicle laws exempt Sikh men from wearing helmets because their religion prohibits headgear other than a turban.   Sikh women can wear only scarves.

Delhi went a step farther and eased the federal helmet mandate in the ’90’s for Sikh women.  However, because it is difficult to identify a Sikh woman, the law doesn’t differentiate and it applies to all women.

City officials say the Chief Minister is going to file a notification informing the High Court  that Delhi will continue to recognize the legal “option” clause that lets women choose whether to wear a helmet.

I can’t explain why the city doesn’t have to obey a High Court order.  Most simple questions have complicated answers here and I haven’t figured this one out yet.

What’s not complicated to understand is this:  Helmets save lives.


Jim and I are having a friendly debate about how much longer to stay in Delhi:  One more year or two?

He is free from the pressures of his book and finally able to dig into India.  He looks forward to two more happy years of doing good work here.

I’m increasingly worn down by being embedded in a place that’s both beautiful and beastly.  One more year is just right for me.

But I know to keep my heart open to whatever happens.  I have learned that every year delivers a treat – you just have to look for it.

This year, my treat is my beautiful class.  Right now, they are learning how to produce a short TV news magazine.  As they progress through this six-week module, their work gets better;  it’s smoother and more confident.  Take a peak at Week Three if you have eleven minutes:



I’m also proud of my beautiful daughter who just performed (and sang) in another play:

The morning roundup.  By the time we are here, by the front door tying shoes, Lala has screamed “It’s EIGHT O’CLOCK, TIME TO GO!” three times. She starts at 7:50.  It’s like hitting the snooze button every five minutes, until finally, you gotta get up, or out the door…..

Lala in her homework nook:

Mama in her work nook:

In consultation with two of my students:    Ashutosh, standing, is reviewing the elements of a story he wants to do about street dogs in Delhi.

One of several goodbye’s this year.  Nikki arrived in Delhi with me nearly three years ago, along with a handful of other friends who are also leaving. She goes back to England.

And finally – Eddie and his dear second grade teacher.  God Bless teachers who love their  work.  Thank you, Marya, for giving Eddie a wonderful year.



The tantric sex carvings on the temples of Khajuraho are few among the thousands of exquisite sculptures that adorn the site.

And I think George found every one of them.

Eddie played it cool and ignored the carvings.

Lala couldn’t figure out why there were so many limbs involved.

Beyond the erotic, was the sublime:  female bodies poised and posed in the most sensuous tasks – preening, undressing, playing, mothering.

You can hear music in the walls of Khajuraho, the ancient capital of the powerful Chandela kingdom of central India.  There’s art and passion and reverence for beauty in every nook and cranny.

Have kids?  Run to, not away, from this heritage site.  While some of the carvings are erotic, even explicit, you will also find musicians, children, animals and playful deities in gorgeous imagery.  All that beauty is lumped together in a community of life and love.


We also chased tigers through the Panna Tiger Reserve.  Chased but never saw.  Still, the landscape was beautiful in dawn and sunset and in the moments before and after.  We saw four-footed and winged creatures aplenty, but never the burning stripes of the likes of Shere Khan.  (Maybe Panna’s tigers are more like the tiger, Richard Parker, in the Life of Pi:  Do they really exist?)  A few years back, in 2006, all of Panna’s tigers were poached.  Rangers say they relocated a new pair into the reserve and now, there are sixteen tigers roaming the forests of the night…



There’s a neighborhood across the street from the American Embassy School – a city block of striking poverty surrounded by embassy property.  It’s best described as a slum, I suppose, or jhuggi, in Hindi.  Some stories tie the beginning of the jhuggi to the workers who helped build the school 50 years ago.  This is where they camped, and stayed, and gave birth to a few generations of beautiful, sometimes struggling, faces.  The school reaches out to the children in the colony in many ways – there are English classes, a weekly after-school camp, an on-site library – this, and more to be a good neighbor.

When I discovered that some of the women who work at the construction site on the school grounds lived across the street, I decided to walk through the colony that I had passed every day and ignored for nearly three years.

It was mid-day on a Friday and the sidewalks were buzzing with children, most home from school during exam season.  I talked with anyone who spoke English, and gestured through conversations with anyone who didn’t.   I walked through narrow alleys, into homes, around corners, onto roofs.

Here’s a peek:  (Sadly, I’ve lost clarity in export…  will tweak when I return from a trip down to Madhya Pradesh.  Stay tuned for how my children respond to the temples at Khajuraho!)