Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Punjabi Baroque

While browsing Wikipedia for things like 'Framed Structure', 'Green Architecture', 'Avante Garde' , 'Fiscal Deficits' etc I drift into (give into the habit of) searching a bit more, ignoring the grasshopper's advice, "Ideas are dangerous!", in the animation movie 'A Bug's Life' and learn about a person called Gautam Bhatia.

He happens to be an architect who authored a book called 'Punjabi Baroque and Other Memories of Architecture'. Having heard words like Punjabi, Architecture, Baroque together I had (was, once again, tempted) to search a bit more putting my curiousity about 'Cyberpunk' (though it will not take long before I am talking 0s and 1s once I kill some 150 Nazis, am not particularly opposed to them lest they put a bounty on me, in my computer game) at the back burner for some time.

Here is what I found -

What I learn is that this person thinks a bit like me (Proof am not unique! :)). He doesn't like the way cities lose their identity, even though it happens in compliance with 'Organic Evolution' (one theory that fits all, 'Natural Selection').

Going particularly about Delhi, I feel it is now 'New Delhi' (going by current trends it will certainly shrink or fall prey to a different kind of global warming having been converted into an island enshrining the sheer architectural marvel Delhi was designed to be, surrounded by greedy, excessively high-profile and flambouyant but particularly apt to popular taste; style of glass and steel 'mirage' architecture of the 'metropolitan Delhi and it's exceptionally mismanaged millennium sub cities'), 'remaining Delhi' (slums, socialist, we-fulfill-needs-of-society, architecture by DDA and better-than-you-neighbour designs by private minds at work, can we call the later 'Capitalism'?) and 'suburbs of Delhi'.

Certainly we need to cater to rising population pressures, but the stakes are needed to be considered sensitively. For example, I wonder how it helps to rename certain boulevards. Be it Willingdon Crescent (now Mother Teresa Crescent), Ring Road (Mahatma Gandhi Marg), Connaught Place (Rajiv Chowk).

Moreover does it serve the purpose by building haphazardly, being blatantly disdainful of the legacy that has been bestowed upon thee? The reasons can be many including it being magnet to masses who do not associate with the city, vote bank politics (let them encroach, let them vote), oops we are a free country everything British is slavery (who cares Commonwealth itself proclaims bondage or put correctly reminiscence of associativity to British legacy)!

1/3 Punjabi, 2/3 Cosmopolitan the city lacks an identity and especially it lacks people who can relate to its history. Facing an identity crisis post-partition, everyone in the city - either is an immigrant, a tourist or a wage-earner or in a worse situation a refugee. It certainly has metamorphed well into a consumers’ paradise keeping tandem with global trends for it has to live up to the reputation of being the capital of world's largest yet somewhat immature democracy, still somehow trying to safeguard what it originally is.

I and many more people happen to be in love with this city for it gives form to the ideas of acceptance, it doesn't contradict, it simply never dictates, remains unbiased, doesn't wish you to be ideal yet it itself is perfectly idealist. In true sense it smells and breaths freedom and thereby we must preserve it, can you see something you love dying without complaining?

In general these are ideas about and situations every major Indian city is facing. Mumbai's (Bombay's) deteriorating infrastructure and culling of mill lands while Maratha maniacs become chauvinists calls for immediate attention lest the city comes to a halt. In Kolkata (dear Calcutta), a newly elected chief minister elicits cheers from masses fed on communist subsidies (which actually left whole West Bengal bankrupt) for over 25 years vying to transform 'City Of Joy' into 'East London'. I certainly think it as a cause of shame when our greatly patronizing leaders take pride in announcing their grandeur plans of transformation whether it is Bombay into Shanghai or Hongkong, Delhi into Paris or Calcutta into London. Bengaluru (Bangalore) transforms into a megacity and all it does is feeding silicon chips to job-seekers from all over the country. These are some names that tell in all glory the tale of urban decay that arises out of un-intelluctual planning which in general is disregardful of bequest it needs to preserve.