For the past few days I've been covering the run up to the Commonwealth Games.
 
On my first day off in two weeks, I met my cousin Arjun who took me to the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan canteen in Delhi.
 
For about $4 I ate one of the most delicious and filling Indian meals I've ever tasted.
 
But it's not the food that impressed me. I was taken by the organisation borne out of chaos.
 
The canteen seats around 80 people, but in three hours fed about 1,000, with amazing personal service.
 
Overseeing the dozen waiters winding their way through the hundreds of patrons, was a manager in a loud orange Hawaiian shirt, as wide as he was tall.
 
I'm writing about this because it validated the fact that in India, there is method to the madness.
 
One of the main criticisms of the Commonwealth Games was that India started preparations three years after the bid, losing precious time.
 
My cousin, a bright young man climbing the ranks of a multi-national corporation, laughed when I told him this over lunch.
 
He says everything here is done in the last minute, there's no point giving someone seven years, it will always start three years too late, but somehow get done.
 
And so I'm finding out, that's what's happening to the games.
 
Bitter aftertaste
 
It's a pity though, everyone here is sure that India will pull off the games, but it's the bitter aftertaste of what happened in the run up, that will linger.
 
You see, India has done it before - the 1982 Asian Games. I visited Delhi with my family a couple of years after that event.
 
We used to spend our summer holidays going to different Indian cities to see relatives.
 
The summer I went to Delhi, I noticed that it wasn't like any other city I had seen so far, it was cleaner and modern.
My father told me it was because of the Asian Games. He said the prime minister then, Indira Gandhi, wanted the rest of the world to know that India, a developing country, was capable of holding a world-class event successfully.
 
The capital was spruced up, roads were widened, flyovers criss-crossed the city, trees were planted and gardens tended to.
 
That was the year colour television came to India. Gandhi wanted the citizens to be able to witness the games in living colour.

Asian Games experience
 
I wonder what fathers will tell their daughters now about the Commonwealth Games. Will they tell them about the athletes pulling out because of the fear of disease? Or about the foreigners who came to inspect the site and used words like "filthy"?
 
In my quest for answers as to why it's become such a debacle, I decided to ask people other than my cousin Arjun.

Commonwealth Games officials who were involved in the 1982 Asian Games told me that the run-up to the event 28 years ago wasn't so different.
 
It was just as chaotic, and many people were questioning whether it would happen at all.
 
The main difference was that there wasn't a voracious media, dominated by 24-hour news channels, that needed to fill air time.
 
Then if you ask almost anyone else, be it the taxi driver, the shopkeeper, the college student waiting for a bus, journalists or my auntie - they'll tell you with a shake of a head, it's corruption. It's everywhere, and nothing can be done about it.

No central authority
 
A former government minister I met at a coffee shop echoed analysts and academics I asked.
 
He told me that it was because there was no effective central authority.
 
Back in 1982, Gandhi put her son in charge with explicit instructions that India shall not be shamed.
 
The Commonwealth Games are being pulled together by a myriad of agencies and contractors who hire sub contractors, who pass it down to more agencies, who field it out to even more sub contractors, and with each link of the chain, palms are greased.
 
So it's no surprise that these are the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever and the budget has been bloated 16 times over.
 
Now, belatedly, Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, has stepped in, trying to get his ministers to get their act together and somehow, with just days to go, get these games and the venues on track.
 
But everyday, failings crop up, and more athletes back down.
 
It seems that no one is taking charge of these games.  If it were up to me, I'd put the portly manager in the Hawaiian shirt on the case.
 
If nothing else, everyone would get fed well, and it won't be the budget but the bellies that will be bloated.