Last week I caught up with Shubhum Mishra, a cartographer/geographer/urban planner, in Sundar Nursery – a Mughal garden turned colonial green house spanning 70 acres in the heart of Delhi – that shall should be open to the public sometime next year.
Shubhum has just transliterated Intizar Husain’s famous book – Dilli Tha Jiska Naam – from the original Urdu/farsi script to devnagari, in the hope of making this incredible resource more accessible to north Indian readers. In this conversation he reads excerpts from the book and I asked him why modern Indian cities are so spectacularly ugly.
Listen in for a fascinating description of Chandini Chowk and “Old Delhi” – back from when “Old Delhi” was the only Delhi around. Shubhum will respond to comments on the site. His book is now available in most book stores around the city and you can buy it here
It’s midnight: An aspiring model cooks up a batch of Fem Bleaching Cream; an actor rehearses his dialogues to the sounds of manic laughter, “Oh tell them all it is I who is God,”; a fourteen year old feigns sleep as his father looks on, wondering what has prompted his son to abandon his studies and look for work; a woman throws her abusive husband to the floor and whips him with his belt.
In the morning, a young man will awaken at the crack of dawn and walk down to the slaughterhouse; an empty street shall bear witness to a middle aged woman’s defiant declaration, “I will work. I don’t care what you think! I don’t care what the world thinks.” The muezzin will call the faithful to prayer. A bulldozer will plow through the heart of this twenty five year old settlement: clearing space for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, altering these lives forever.
In February 2006, the residents of Nangla Maanchi, a working class settlement of migrants in Delhi, were confronted by a signboard: “This land is the property of the government. It should be vacated.” By August that year, Nangla was bulldozed to make way for an “athlete’s village” to house this year’s Commonwealth Games.
David Harvey published his piece Right to the City in the New Left Review Issue of September-October 2008. Briefly, he describes the capitalist process and how the city has been the space for investing surplus capital. Specifically, this is done through the constant construction boom, be it housing or infrastructure creation. Harvey is suggesting that the global crises which has affected cities across the world (also because these cities were deeply implicated in the conditions that produced the crisis) is now offering an opportunity for the marginalized “classes” of the world to come together and take control of the “surpluses” which are generated at the expense of the cities. He proposes that if the marginalized people across the world were to unite, they could probably demand a human right to the city which goes beyond merely accessing individual urban resources. The right to the city involves re-creating ourselves in the process of re-creating our cities, in consonance with the higher values of equality and social justice. Continue reading Right to the City? Rethinking Urbanization, Urban Restructuring, Change and How the City is Accessed Physically and Symbolically …
Pleased with its professionally executed hatchet job on what is probably Delhi’s first real public transport endeavour that incorporates the needs of pedestrians and cyclists apart from bus users, the press seems to have forgotten the BRTS – moving on to search for other programmes to torpedo. But what was the BRTS fuss all about? Read on …
“’Experts’ order serial rape of Delhi Roads” screamed a particularly tasteless headline, in a national paper, of an article that claimed that the entire city shall be subjected to “gang-rape by greedy contractors with the benign blessings of rootless experts and supine babus.” In another widely published English newspaper, the editor in chief spoke out fearlessly against the “brutal enforcement of licence-quota raj on our roads”, denouncing what he saw as the “cynical and expensive exercise in enforcing a new kind of ideological socialism.” In another op-ed carried by the same paper, another piece spoke out against the “elitist” nature of the same project. “The masses want to drive,” noted columnist Saubhik Chakravarthy,” So reducing road space for private vehicles is ultimately elitist.” Judging by the vicious vendetta unleashed by the mainstream press, one would assume that the mild-mannered professors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, had committed a crime against the state, rather than have designed the latest addition to the city’s mass transit system.
Continue reading So what was that fuss about?