In this whole series of blah, as a run up to our Independence Day, I was actually reading up a little bit on ghettoisation in India. The few articles that I picked up opened my eyes a wee bit. They can’t open up more than a wee bit. I am ‘eye-opening’ deprived as a person.
But then, when I was out for dinner last night, I met a couple of architects, and I got to speaking about urban spaces. Rural as well, but let’s stay with the urban for the time being.
As I have often mentioned (or, have not), I am a typical Indian, in that I bash my own country, and don’t talk of the good stuff that is happening in India. So, let me preface this piece by saying that we do up our homes and offices well. Some of the larger corporates have some very good campuses, where you can forget about the screeching horns, the ugly banners that scream for your attention, to allow you to focus on the computer screen in front of you, in the quiet comfort of your air-conditioned cabin or cubicle. Life is idyllic indeed.
Yet, when we go outside, we are faced with incredible ugliness. We go out in the evening, freshly splashed with cologne and, sipping the most expensive whisky (which, mind you, is good because it is expensive) and we discuss art, the arts, music and culture in well-modulated tones.
I grew up in the hills of India, and I took this photo in a small townlet quite close to the town where I grew up. Yes, dammit – townlet. It is a town that is in between a town and a village. It is a baby town.
This is in the town called Bhowali, and the picture is an accurate portrayal of extreme ugliness.
I have never figured out why we tolerate such rubbish. In fact, I have never figured out why we actually encourage it.
Once, I was squatting by the road-side and chatting with an old fellow. We were sitting next to a puddle, and would elegantly move our bums whenever a cyclist or something more frightening, would come our way, to avoid being splashed with brown muddy water. And so, the conversation went thus’
Me:”Respected Old Gent. Do you like the rubbish on the street?”
Old Gent, glaring: “Imbecile!! Who likes this. Do you think we are pigs who like to wallow in the muck?”
Me:”Respected Old Gent, what should be done?”
Old Gent, a bit more amiable and supercilious now: “Imbecile that you are! The government should clean the place! They should punish all those who litter. Ugly signs must not be allowed. There must be regulations. The young generation. They have nooooo reshpect for this country.None. No. In my time, this place was clean. The road was shining. And now?”
The old gent proceeded to spit out a stream of liquid betel leaf, and threw some muck right into the puddle.
Me:”Respected Old Gent! But, you just dirtied the street! Would it be possible for you to show the youngsters a good example?”
Old Gent, frothing at the mouth: “Bloooody Imbecile!!! You teach me? You theenk that this leetle muck will make a difference? No. And, who are you to talk anyway? Hey, hey? Who are you? You theenk you are so superior…. Hey??? Just because you have a camera, you theeenk you can talk? Imbecile!! Eeeediot. Get out”, and he poked me with his ferrel!
I guess that there was no point in quoting that old song by The Kingston Trio / Pete Seeger / Peter, Paul and Mary. The one that went, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone? /Long Time Passing/ Where Have All The Flowers Gone? / Long Time Ago”
When we turn 77 on the 15th August, one of the pledges I hope we Indians make, is to make our country a leeeetle bit more inhabitable, and that we do that wee bit to improve our public spaces.
I hope that Mr Prime Minister and his cohorts is listening…