This is the final post in a series on Delhi that does not talk only of the narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad, the Mughalia, aka Mughlai delights and the lip-smacking Chaats of Chandni Chowk or the grand ruins of the seven Delhis and the wide open spaces and broad roads, but a series that also looks at the way Delhi has evolved. We wanted to explore the logic of the city and of the forces that have shaped the idea of the city itself. It was this idea that made us approach people who have engaged with the city with love and care for decades and we requested them to write for Kafila.
This series is titled Dilli hai jiska naam and the links to the previous posts can be found at the end.
My post below is the final one in the series. It was originally presented at a seminar at the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore, and is included in “Radical City – Imagining Possibilities for the Indian City” (Sage Publishers).
What is a City? Sohail Hashmi
What exactly is a city, is it just a large settlement, is the size of the population living within a definable area the only criterion, is it merely a centre of production, exchange and transport, how does one distinguish it from a village or a small town?
Questions such as these have engaged scholars cutting across diverse disciplines and a large number of definitions of a city exist, A city has been defined in terms of its demographics alone – a densely populated area, through its size – a city is a large settlement, there are other definitions that try to define the city through its systems of public utilities, through the presence of centralised civic authority, as a centre of production, a site through which political power is exercised and even as a site with a continuous history cutting across centuries.
A city is all this and more and this essay would seek to present some partially formed ideas on what is this elusive ‘more’.