Justin Huggler
A Night in Delhi

There’s a power cut in the next block and I find myself stumbling through the darkness. There are big potholes in the road surface and I almost trip over a couple of times. At the edges of the road, where the cars are parked, the surface gives way completely to dust.

The only lights are at one or two windows, where some one has an invertor and a car battery hooked up to the wiring to get them through the summer power cuts. I can see the stars. I can smell the dust, and the smoke from a fire nearby where some one is burning the last of the spring leaves.

There is a scent of animal dung on the wind as well, and I can hear the stray dogs fighting a couple of streets away, their barking echoing through the night.

For a few minutes, I feel like I could be in a village in the middle of nowhere,and I am in the middle of one of the biggest cities on earth.

From A Night in Delhi

Distracted by its own din, Europe cannot hear the gathering storm

The wolves are circling Europe. The emerging economies of Asia and South America sense weakness. Day by day, they are pushing the boundaries, seeing how far they can go, testing a new world order. But inside the camp, the old European economies are too deafened by the din of their own internal squabbles to hear the approaching danger.

From Distracted by its own din, Europe cannot hear the gathering storm

The World’s Most Overpriced Airport

So, Delhi airport is to become the world’s most expensive for airlines. It’s one of those stories you barely notice, just another sign of India’s booming economy — until you stop to think: it doesn’t make any sense at all.

India’s aviation sector is in crisis. Kingfisher Airlines is on the verge of collapse, unable to pay its pilots’ salaries or its fuel bills, its international flights cancelled, its domestic operations pared back to the minimum.

Air India would be in the same mess if it didn’t have endless government subsidies to fall back on.

Demand for landing slots at Delhi is going down, not up. And the airport is jacking up its charges to the most expensive in the world?

What’s going on?

From The World’s Most Overpriced Airport

She was married when she was one year old. She didn’t get a say, she didn’t even know how to speak. Her parents traded her like a piece of property, her life theirs to do with as they pleased.

From Rebellion of the Child Bride

Blood on the Streets

I was a few streets from home when it came at me. An SUV on the wrong side of the road, travelling in the wrong direction, rushing out of the night straight at my car, lights flashing and horn blaring for me to get out of the way.

It was no time to argue. I slammed the brakes on and swerved. I managed to avoid a head-on collision but the two cars scraped along the side of each other before slewing to a halt in the middle of the deserted road.

The other driver was getting out of his car. He looked drunk and ready for a fight. It was two o’clock in the morning and there was no one else around.

From Blood on the Streets

I don’t sleep well. Perhaps I have unquiet dreams. But I think it has something to do with the man who blows a whistle outside my window all night.
View from a Terrace

Where do I begin?

I’m sitting on the terrace of my apartment in Delhi. It’s early evening and the light is already fading, but it’s still warm, and the leaves are falling all around me. The leaves fall in spring in Delhi, which seems strange to some one like me who grew up in Europe, and associates the fall with the nights drawing in, huddling around the bonfire for warmth, and the death of the year. But here it is the summer everyone fears, summer is the season of death, and even the trees are shedding excess leaves, paring themselves down to the bare essentials, ready to survive the furnace that will soon be upon us.

For now, though, the weather is balmy, idyllic. There’s a light breeze and it picks up the dead leaves and draws patterns with them on the ground. It picks up the dust too. The watchman walks by, beating his lathi on the ground: it makes a hollow sound. There are green parrots in the tree opposite.

It’s not a fancy apartment. The paint is peeling, and it’s in an oppressive shade of yellow that the landlord chose – when I asked him if we could change it, he wasn’t happy. The terrace is a little open space of cracked concrete beside a wall stained from last year’s monsoon rains, the paint on the iron railings bubbling with rust. I’m sitting on an old rope bed that is slowly coming apart.

I’ve lived in India, on and off, for the last eight years. I came here as a journalist for the British newspaper The Independent. When I left the paper, I felt my time in India wasn’t finished, so I stayed, but these days I spend a good deal of the time in London too.

I had an interesting time as a journalist. I was in Afghanistan and Iraq, I got shot at by all sorts of people. I witnessed revolutions in Serbia and Nepal. I seem to remember people celebrating by holding a jousting match between cars in Belgrade, young men sitting on top of cars holding long poles as they drove fast at each other, though I may have hallucinated that, I hadn’t slept in days.

I reported on earthquakes and tsunamis. I walked through the ruins of Jenin.  I hid from tanks on the streets of Bethlehem. I was nearly stoned to death by angry refugees on the Afghan-Pakistan border. I was in a car chase in Iraq. Sometimes it was fun, often it was terrifying. For a few years, I was at the centre of events, in the places the world was watching.

But I grew disillusioned with it. Working as a reporter, I felt I couldn’t write the way I wanted, tell the stories I wanted. My work was made to order to fit into some one else’s plan, dreamed up in London. I brought them stories and they told me how they wanted me to tell them. I had to feign anger when I didn’t feel it, and hide it when I did. I had to pretend enthusiasm for schemes I knew wouldn’t work. Newspaper stories are written by committee. I wanted to find my own voice. So I stayed in India and tried to learn to write.

Okay, it’s getting dark now and the mosquitoes will be coming. I have to go.