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Cities, Planning and freedom!

 As I glanced through this article on my newsfeed, the picture caught my eye - so elegant, so mesmerising and so neat! Wow! What a view of Paris - the city of Love.


Compare this image of Paris to any Indian city and the Indian city will look ugly, disorganized and pitiful - you'd probably use these images to label cities as First World and Third World countries. 


But scratch under the surface of your reactionary thoughts, you will realise that the pictures reveal a very different story. Paris or for that matter any city which looks well organized are usually a result of one regime, one ruler being dominant at the time of development of the city - such that the ruler could convert huge swathes of land from private ownership to state ownership, and then develop them into planned cities.

A chaotic disorganized city, on the other hand, is a result of common people having exercised their individual rights, their ingenuity, their individual personas, their likes, dislikes to create a chaotic mosaic of city life around their smaller privately owned homes. 

There are, of course, shades of grey everywhere - a chaotic city is almost impossible to navigate - narrow streets, lack of public spaces and crowded ghettos are not the best places for living. Large planned organized cities can afford comforts which the congested metropolis can't. But at the same time, these smaller ghettoed cities have often shown to exuberate character which has inspired artists. 

Planned cities afford great lifestyles but the struggles of a chaotic one can weave a story, a novel and a life full of chutzpahs. The most unexpected encounters happen, not in the well-planned suburbs, but in the thick smoky disorderly cities, full of interesting people to observe, meet and intermingle with. 

Take a contrast between New Delhi created by the British Masters and Old Delhi, the setting of common folk who lived through the Sultanate, Mughal, Maratha-Sikh and finally the British regimes - only to survive to see an independent India. There's so much to marvel in the elegant Rajpath and South Block, but so much to observe if you loiter around the Delhi Gate near Raj ghat. There's much to see if you visit the Lal Quila or Jantar Mantar, but much more to photograph if you were standing at the Paharganj chowk, just observing the daily life around. 

Chaos is the manifestation of freedom which is far more valuable than grandeur or elegance of an (overly) organized life. If I had to choose, I'd choose freedom!  

Mumbai image credit - Aswini Kumar

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