Coming from the land of Mayawati in the midst of election fever, I cannot help dwelling on this megalomaniac business of commissioning huge parks, statues and buildings. Lucknow has been transformed since I lived there and the elephants hiding under the Election Commission’s drapes made for an entertaining sight. Interestingly, while the main park at Gomti Nagar is open to public, many of the facilities built under Mayawati’s rule are gated and inaccessible. So what purpose do they serve really, I fail to understand.
As we’ve discussed often in our home, generations after us will remember Mayawati for the legacy of buildings and landscaping she will leave behind, while the Mulayam’s of the world will be forgotten except in the Saefais of the world!
It’s not only megalomania that drives this sort of meaningless construction. Erecting structures that serve no particular function is a national obsession and we’re seeing it play out right in front of our office.
Picture this. GK I Enclave. A Posh South Delhi colony, some of the most valued residential real estate in India. A common green area meant to be a park has some derelict swings for children and a lot of unmaintained patchy lawn. And some concrete benches. One day, we observed a small construction crew begin to erect an entrance gate. A completely out of proportion tall and broad gate for a pocket-sized park. First they built this gate brick by excruciating brick, then they plastered it, then they scraped off the plaster to clad it with opulent granite. The whirring and clanking still goes on. The park is now littered with construction material. The debris outside the gate spills out onto the colony road creating a mini traffic jam several times a day. It’s been some two months now and our design team in office cannot stop laughing about the-gate-that-never-gets-done!
Now there are several disturbing things about this gate. Why spend money on an entrance gate, an ugly one at that, when the parks aren’t maintained? Don’t all the rich people living in this posh colony want a park where their children can play, they can walk etc right outside their homes? Who takes this sort of decision and who are they hoping to please by building an unaesthetic flashy gate in an up-market residential colony? Is this something political, perhaps a contractor mafia at work? Do the residents have a say in their surroundings at all? Shouldn’t they? And why built it in this haphazard, wasteful, time consuming manner, inconveniencing residents and creating a nuisance? Most disturbing of all, I discovered there are gates like that one being built in many parks in south Delhi!
The entire process speaks of the apathy private property owners have for their public spaces, even among the well-to-do. This is what translates into spitting on the roadside and dug up sidewalks, stinking toilets and open manholes that people fall into and die. Why blame the government when we sanction this sort of meaningless nonsense inside our neighborhoods?
Mukta Naik is an architect and urban planner by training and has worked as a communications expert for several years. Spending a fraction of her time consulting as a planner in the low-income housing segment, Mukta devotes herself to classical Indian music vocals, dance, writing and being mom to two young children. Through her blog, which she writes daily, she attempts to highlight essentially urban experiences and issues, with a view to generating awareness, debate and possibly, community action. Mukta lives in Gurgaon, a growing Indian suburb that serves as her prism to India’s chaotic urban development.