Tag Archive for 'Bengaluru'

Girish Karnad reflects on Bangalore

In Newsweek / The Daily Beast:

The new IT prosperity has created a young, energetic, educated, and wealthy working class, transforming Bangalore into a consumer’s paradise of shopping malls and office complexes with glass-fronted exteriors. The insatiable demand for “good English” has renewed the anxiety that Kannada may die out in the city. In 2006 Bangalore was renamed Bengaluru.

But the main loss has been the sense of a stable, coherent city. The experience of the city has become formless, even viscous. Everyone is trying to get somewhere, and distance has become the only real object of daily concern. Instead of shrinking the city, the flyovers, underpasses, and elevated trains seem continually to expand it, pushing people farther and farther away from each other.

Twenty years after we built our house in a residential zone, we have now been informed that the road in front of it needs to be widened to accommodate the traffic. Any day now an entire swath could be cleared from our front garden, and the wall of our living room knocked down. More:

Our bestial stamp on British cities

The British talent was building cities. The Indian talent is renaming things others built. Aakar Patel in Mint Lounge:

The British talent was building cities. They gave the Chinese Hong Kong and Singapore, they gave the Lankans Colombo, they gave the Burmese Rangoon, they gave the Kenyans Nairobi. To us they gifted Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore and New Delhi, the five greatest cities of the subcontinent.

The Indian talent is renaming things others built. We gave the world Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru.

This put on display our pettiness and our ingratitude, and it also exposed another thing. We squat aggressively on names but we have not been able to create a single city of this quality on our own. The British did not build Surat or Ahmedabad, it is true, and these cities rose whole cloth from the Indian mercantile tradition. But they are quite provincial. Even if commercially independent of English language and colonial architecture, they’re actually giant villages. They have nothing of the metropolis about them. The cities we inherited from the British, it must be admitted, we have run into the ground. No city in India is Hong Kong.

Delhi and Kolkata look as if populated by a race different from the one that built the city. Like Rome overrun by Vandals or—to reach for a more popular allusion—like Planet of the Apes. The symmetry, the order, the Classical lines of Lutyens’ Delhi are the product of another civilization. These neighbourhoods are not designed for the people who now occupy them. Armed with its vaastu shastra and servant quarters, a second-rate civilization is spreading its slum over the creation of a civilized one. More:

The idea of cities

In a cover story on urban areas around Southasia, Himal looks “at the idea of cities as an active collective impulse that is ever evolving.” Below, a sample:

Lahore: By Raza Rumi

I spent my early years in a Model Town colonial bungalow, which was originally the creation of a Hindu doctor who had to leave the city at Partition. This was an age when birds were an integral feature of Lahori skies, and the seasons played out their glory. As the name suggests, Model Town was an ‘ideal’ suburb, created during the Raj by the advanced citizenry on the idea of ‘cooperative urban life’. Established in 1922, Model Town was the fruition of advocate Diwan Khem Chand’s unshakeable belief in the values of self help, self responsibility and democracy, loosely the principles of cooperative societies. This was the reason why Model Town was established as, and still is, a ‘cooperative society’. What fewer people know is that these values of cooperation were first popularised by George Jacob Holyoake, a 19th-century English social reformer responsible for the cooperative movement. Incidentally, Holyoake was also infamous for the distinction of having invented the phrase ‘secularism’, for which he was the last citizen to be convicted for blasphemy in England.

Kabul: By Anne Feenstra

Kabul is a city of dramatic contrasts. In the streets, shiny black-windowed limousines drive immediately alongside scruffy pushcarts with wobbly wheels. On the sidewalks, one-legged beggars hold out hands to well-dressed business men in sharp, knitted suits and gleaming shoes. Perhaps little of this is particularly exceptional in urban areas around the world, including in Southasia. Perhaps more to the point in the Afghan context would be the contrast in the inner city between Western female diplomats being driven around in armoured vehicles, and the local ladies who are fully covered in azure burqas.

Galle: By Richard Boyle

Galle’s location at the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, with only the Antarctic across more than 5000 miles of ocean, ensured the prominence of the port during the early history of navigation. Not surprisingly, it became the natural focal point at the southernmost part of the Silk Routes that connected Asia with the Mediterranean. Galle also provided a relatively equidistant location for Arab and Chinese ships to converge and trade, thus avoiding much longer voyages. It had a fine natural harbour protected to the southeast by an elevated headland and to the northwest by a flat peninsula, although there were submerged rocks and the harbour was not protected from the southwest monsoon.

Dhaka: By Zafar Sobhan

Dhaka today is utterly unrecognisable as the sleepy, charming, tranquil town it was even half a century ago. There is something thoroughly startling about this transmutation from a genteel and sedate town of tree-lined avenues, ponds, canals and spacious bungalows set amidst overgrown gardens – to this present incarnation as a dizzying metropolis of 12 million people, blaring automobiles and block after block of unpainted concrete apartments, as far as the eye can see. But the difference is more than merely in the physical transformation; it is also one of tone and feel. Dhaka today is a high-octane megacity, where life is fast and furious (except for the traffic, which remains slow and torpid), where anger and violence simmer beneath the surface.

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