A Touch Of Whimsy – Public Aesthetics



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…


  1. A pet hate for all of us – but I give up – don’t know what can be done! Is it lack of political will? Is it lack of will by the people themselves? One gets what one deserves – or does one? Poverty goes hand in hand with filth, especially when basic sanitation facilities aren’t provided by the powers that be. But what’s worse is when the so called -well heeled, ‘well-educated’ (?) indulge in atrocious behaviour – such as spitting their pan-masala-red betel-nut-stream – after rolling down the windows of their posh Merc/BMW/Esteem/whatever, then proceeding throw out the packets on to the road, etc etc etc. You get the drift. OK done with the rant. NOw over to you!

    1. I think it is both… The civil servants don’t give a shit, and we believe we can get away with murder. So yes, you have “educated” people who believe they can do what they want. We used to have a driver. He once said that before I correct him, the educated and the rich must set a proper example.

  2. I look at the ugliness that is so prevalent in the larger towns and cities of my country, and also wonder about what ‘prosperity’ means. But since everyone is so busy looking at their smart phones anyway, it’s probably no surprise why no one really seems to notice. I wonder if it’s a conspiracy…keep the masses ‘happy’ with distractions, and no one will complain… 😉

    1. I think your country is very nice! The Japanese believe so much in harmony and balance . But yes, I believe in the conspiracy theory of the cell phones!

      1. Thank you for your kind words. But there is a lot of ugliness (figuratively and literally) here too. But, I don’t want to bring a dark cloud over the comments section 😉 I guess there is no ‘perfect place’ on this planet, sadly…

  3. In the U.S., people are fined for littering. It seems to have helped – I remember in the late ’50s and early ’60s, people would just pitch trash out of their cars. If you get caught doing that now, it’s a nasty fine.

    You say you are a typical Indian, but you are quoting Pete Seeger? I may have a Ravi Shankar CD, but he’s well-known here – he was at Woodstock after all.

    1. Okay, maybe not that typical! Yeah, I remember watching the Woodstock film.
      In India, we do have the laws. Implementation is the problem…

  4. We need to simply stop cursing the Government for every damn thing and start working ourselves. It seems difficult, and it probably is. But without an effort, one can’t blatantly blame it on someone else.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.