Short biography of Mumbai and many more…
The journalist turned author Fernandes feels planning is a key issue while dealing with complexities of urbanization
New Delhi: With a dominant urban landscape unfurling in metropolitan cities across the country, many believe the very spirit with which these cities were born now remains subdued. Withering away of Bombay’s charms, the city which once so effortlessly manufactured dreams, is what author and journalist Naresh Fernandes elucidates in his latest book “City Adrift: A short biography of Bombay”.
In this book, Fernandes traces the emergence of Bombay; how a city which once captivated the nation and drew fortune-seekers to it, is now embracing disastrous new trends such as luxury ghettos thus, may be heading for terminal decay.
Terming urbanization as the contention here, Fernandes feels, while it offers better opportunities for some, it may prove detrimental to others, mostly poor migrants and the underprivileged.
“Urbanization is a complex concept. For some, it is liberating as it offers opportunities, jobs, better education and healthcare, But if you’re poor, migration to city spaces may be traumatic. Urban spaces are seldom welcoming to migrants families. Their standards of living have deteriorated, most have limited access to basic amenities,” Fernandes told PTI.
According to Fernandes, this gradual mushrooming of urban ghettos which lays emphasis on segregating communities into ‘us’ and ‘them’ is not only limited to Mumbai but extends to many Indian cities treading on the path of rapid development.
“The emergence of ‘gated communities’ where people have increasingly been living a secluded existence has only created a salad bowl of the societal setup. For instance, in a commercial city like Gurgaon, people residing in gated communities depend on housekeepers and domestic help for most of their work yet; poor people lack proper transport facilities, residences among others. We have increasingly been ignoring this symbiotic relationship,” says Fernandes.
Highlighting the loss of local art and communities as one of the detrimental effects of ‘gated existences’, he says, “With gated communities comes alive the threat to local art and cultural nuances. We only tend to associate and bond with people like us and are not challenged by varied imagination. Ideas, in such cases become increasingly monochromatic.”
India which is fast growing in terms of economy, the author opines, the country has yet not been able to become a welfare state like those in Europe.
“Many countries in the European continent have ensured social safety of citizens by providing healthcare facilities and education. But the structure being followed in India is driving poor migrants off the cliff without providing a net to make them fall into,” he says.
Voicing the need for a planning process which is about lives and not lifestyles, the author believes the economy can still be all -inclusive by ensuring youth participation. Fernandes, who has previously traced the history of Jazz in Mumbai in his book ‘Taj Mahal Foxtrot’, only hopes that cities abuzz with multiplicity of people do not head towards a dystopian future. “To avoid this we must head towards a great deal of unrest,” he says.