The sight of Delhi is now the construction site. With the government scurrying around to pull off the city’s miraculous face-lift in time for the Commonwealth Games, the city has become an accumulation of construction material.
Residents complain incessantly about the loss of peace and tranquility in the city. The solitude of the countryside is a common urban longing. Of course, the countryside in India is often a spread of dry fields ploughed by emaciated, hopeless farmers. All the same for the city dweller, the Indian countryside is a breath of fresh air. Everyone wants to go to somewhere ‘quaint’.
The desire people express is one Pink Floyd might have called one for a release from ‘the machine’. People want time to themselves, to connect with their inner selves but the city with its traffic bottlenecks and construction sites is too congested for self-discovery. People often talk about the lack of poetry in the city; life here is too prosaic, monotonous and dull.
What about the sight of a city with its wheels turning fast in the direction of progress, what of the convenience of the metro, the convenience of being able to eat every day? Is there no poetry in that? Isn’t the fact that we are building more homes, better transport and eating better food a good thing? Isn’t the fact that the same mind evolved from foraging and living in a cave to creating giant buildings, so that people can live and work?
People talk about cities being centers of crime. It is true that crime in cities like Delhi has reached deplorable limits. But the problem is hardly the city itself; rather it is the lack of protection from concerned authorities. Consider for a moment the life people dream off, the life outdoors. Would it be a crime there if you were eaten by a predator? No. That’s the law of nature. But in a city at least the idea that the loss of human life is not desirable, exists.
Perhaps people need to find poetry themselves. The beauty- the actual physical beauty of a metropolis has passed unnoticed. It is a human tendency to focus on and revel in sorrow, self-pity and ugliness, to see all that is repulsive and aggravating about the sights that surround them. The poetry of the city needs to be discovered.
The site of construction is the sight of progress; it is a symbol of the fact that man is still building and supporting life, rather than one of slavery or oppression.