September 2, 2017

Dear Colleagues

Here is another round of random reflections for your perusal:

  1. Around the world, vivid visuals of the fury of floods have been showing regularly this past fortnight on our televisions and mobiles. The flooding has caused major disruptions to everyday life, injury, deaths and devastation to individual and public property in Houston (USA), Mumbai & parts of Bihar (India) and Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam, and many others. Yet, global media, both regular & social, seems to have highlighted the devastation of Houston far more than elsewhere, even though numbers of people affected elsewhere in Asia are many times more. This indeed is the power of global media, located in the north. Important news is that which gets on to BBC & CNN repeatedly!
  2. While walking on the streets of digital city Bangaluru, one hears many languages and dialects as it truly is a cosmopolitan city. However, surprisingly, Hindi of UP/Bihar variety seems to dominate the ‘air waves’ of street conversations. Walking on the pavements in this city is indeed a pleasure, unlike elsewhere. The current government in the state is now ‘promoting’ local Kannadiga identity by removing Hindi language signage. Additionally, a new religion is being ‘invented’ for a segment of Kannada population—Vokkaligas. For a modern 21st century digital city, all these machinations indicate the continued strength of primordial identities.
  3. India’s heritage is historical, complex and varied. Its preservation, however, is apathetic, callous and disgusting. A part of Delhi’s history is located in an area called Mehrauli. Dating back 5-7 centuries, this area is now being ‘preserved’ by Archeological Survey of India under the guise of ‘Mehrauli Archeological Park’. On a visit to this park recently, we could not find a single signage indicating where it was, an area of several hundred acres? After driving around in circles for an hour, a mud road led us to this beautiful and historically important area of tombs, wells and gardens. Walking inside we encountered sleeping guards, broken beer bottles, several groups of boys playing cricket on grass and garbage litter. Should ‘patriotic’ Indians and their leaders not be ensuring protection and rejuvenation of India’s ‘glorious history’?
  4. Goa is now world famous for its beaches and churches. Off-season tourism in Goa can still be quite crowded. Given its long stretches and small towns, it is fun to move around in Goa and savour different cuisines, beaches and natural views. But such travel can be extremely expensive and erratic. Local taxi unions have ensured that Ola & Uber kinds of taxis are not allowed in the state. So, one ends up paying 2-3 times the regular fare to these few taxi ‘cartels’. We paid more in one local taxi ride of 40 kms than a one way air ticket Delhi-Goa! Viva!!
  5. Urbanisation has posed numerous challenges across the world. One of these challenges is about building new townships. Some times, new towns are built to stimulate economic activity in a region. Chinese have perhaps built most such cities. Some times, new towns are built around an old city itself. New Raipur is one such ‘new’ city. Hundreds of government offices have been built here, along with thousands of residential flats. Government staff is ‘bused’ in to new Raipur every working day, and several thousand private vehicles bring other important people. After sunset, however, it is a ghost city, as no one ‘lives’ here. What is the appropriate methodology of building a city? Is it different from creating a habitation?

All the very best
Rajesh Tandon