From his designated spot in Connaught Place, a business district in the heart of New Delhi, motorcades could be seen passing by every few minutes this week as droves of arriving diplomats headed to nearby luxury hotels. Kumar arrives at 7 a.m. every day for his almost 12-hour shift, taking shade  under a tree as the searing heat intensifies.

In addition to police officers, the New Delhi Municipal Council has deployed at least 3,000 of its staff to undertake the capital’s giant facelift and maintain it for the summit.

Ensuring the bustling streets of Delhi remain clean is no easy feat. Nand Kishor, 54, is responsible for more than a quarter-mile stretch of a four-lane road, which he cleans while wearing an orange T-shirt bearing the summit’s logo.

“We’ve been given instructions to do our best work as the summit is going on. Everything should remain clean. But how much can I clean alone?” he said during a shift Wednesday, usually the one day he has off every week.

Often as Kishor moves from one end of the road to the other, he sees people littering on the section he has just swept. Sometimes he argues with them, but other times, he says, “I can’t be bothered.” 

Even the city’s foliage has received an upgrade.

“I plant almost 300 flowers a day,” said Lalit Kumar, 33, a gardener who has been working around the clock so that the visiting delegations are greeted with scenes of fresh flowers.

A spokesperson for the municipal corporation said the city aimed for almost half a million new plants ahead of the summit.

Not far from Connaught Place, Mahendar Palia’s team of eight has been working 12 hours a day at the Mandi House subway station. Officials had invited artists like him from around the country to paint murals there and on walls around the city. 

After mixing some paint, he turned on a spray-paint machine and climbed metal scaffolding to add outlines to a flower petal.

“We were told to make Delhi beautiful with eye-catching designs and color schemes that if any visitor sees, they should say ‘Wow,’” Palia said as his team put the finishing touches on the jungle design it had been working on for 10 days.

“We are so happy to do this, it’s an artist’s dream,” he said.

While flowers and art are being put front and center, two of the most common sights in New Delhi — rhesus monkeys and stray dogs — are being kept out of sight as much as possible.


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