|The Rapid Metro - Golf Course Road|
The idea that the means for getting people, or should we say
workforces, from places of their unusefulness ( read, rest, family life,
personal engagement and development) to places of employment has been for over
half a century the primary preoccupation of city planning and infrastructure
In our own backyard we see the first signs of it in
Chandigarh – lines drawn across the a dusty plane as fastest and straightest
connection between two points for transport of people on movements using
autonomous motor-vehicles – what we call cars
today! For ease of navigation and efficiency, the lines are straight, and a
right-angle grid spreads across a predetermined area, establishing its primary
structure. Everything else, though beautifully extolled and celebrated, could
as easily be argued as unavoidable aftermath.
The motorized private
has been the engine of modern urbanism,
providing access, and freedom, and of course aspiration. The image of the big,
modern city was never without cars, flyovers, and even personalized flying
transport. But in a century of it being around it hasn’t really made the city
And mass, rapid transport, has only added to that woe.
The issue one begins to see is not in the nature of the
vehicle, but in the myopia and shortsightedness of the visions that have been
driving their inclusion in urbanism. And of course the fact that the city, once
has turned into an engine of
economy and not place of Culture, Art and Life as was hoped.
You only have to drive/ walk around Delhi and Gurgaon, and
the manner in which Transport oriented infrastructure has mauled and fractured
the urban experience cannot be hidden by any amount of beautification or
insertion of novelty. The absence of Pedestrian facilities at the massive
flyover at AIIMS intersection, or the
completely callous placing of Metro
Pillars, sqauarely on pavements ( that are meant to be used by the very same
people, the metro is provided for), or the huge messes of over-and underpasses
for motor-vehicles that are designed without a thought that citizens walk too.
The experience of walking should not have to be one traversing a obstacle
course laced with death-traps, seems to be the least of the concerns of the
designers and policy makers that pen these decision from their Out-look Towers,
and air-conditioned chauffeured sedans.
|Nelson Mandela Marg - New Delhi|
Much of the notion of the city relies on the car as aspiration,
and that you haven’t arrived, or made it until, you can afford one.
I remember tweeting, once – The affordable (cheap) motorcar
has been used to sell us (really) bad urbanism. I think you would begin to
Every other day the city sprouts another marvel( or monster)
of public work, destroying whatever is left of the Urban Public space, and it
doesn’t help that there is this perception that the public space of the city is
It was not always unsafe, that’s what the urban-designers,
city-planners and policy makers have made it. Bit-by-bit, cutting it up,
destroying any kind of legibility, de-humanising its scale, and completely
neglecting the needs of citizens that live outside of gated safe-houses and
controlled private enclaves.
It makes more sense to do this for two primary reasons – you
can control people better, and the way more important one – privately help
public space requires you to spend money, both to access it and once within to
receive service. Neither of these were possible in the democratic space of the
|Pedestrian Overbridge - Aruna Nagar, Majnu Ka Tila|
Present day urbanism thrives on the aspiration of Private
Space, controlled and limited access – a visit to Gurgaon especially along the
high value Golf-course road would make this quite apparent. You can see the
same in varying degrees all across the NCR.
The Notion that better transport infrastructure will make a
better city, or give you a better Quality of life, of even raise your standard
of living, seems to falling apart quite rapidly!
But you would see that if you walked on the streets, you had
your feet on the ground! And you were not looking at the world from the back
set of your luxury car with rose tinted glasses!
|A Raod-side Baber's stall - Gurgaon|
Post Script - The city
as I see it now is a little zoo designed to keep you working, so you can make
the money to buy the things that you never needed, that large corporations want
to sell you after which, so you can get drunk on overpriced alcohol in safe
havens on a weekend before you can go back to work on Monday! Its so much
easier than making a city where you could go for walks, talk on the streets and
meet people, and generally enjoy a beautiful urban experience. But then that
wouldn’t make anyone any money!