Guest post from a friend, Devika Narayan
I attended an intense and exciting discussion on Delhi where many people from different fields spoke. The following is a patchwork of their words (more or less) . A total mishmash of voices, ideas and arguments. Hope it is some what coherent.
They talk repeatedly about Delhi and the loss of memory. The long, forgotten past which is erased from our collective memory. A pathological inability to recall the biographic journey that brought us to here. We advocate a sustained determined effort to unlock the gates of memory and end this distorting amnesia.
Indulge in guilty nostalgia. The Sarkari city of the 80s and the government bungalow, the open spaces and the fifty bird species in the garden. You become an easy intellectual target who is attacked for being a middle class romantic, longing for an invented past . But don’t dismiss nostalgia you say, drawing upon nostalgia as a technique of critiquing the present can be a useful exercise. However, while reconciling the experience of the endless centuries gone by with the chaotic present, one must also claim the future in a conscious way. The has been a lack of public debate when it comes imagining the future of Delhi. That is to say, debate about contemporary architecture, about housing, about alternative city plans are absent. We need to construct an imagination of the future in the most democratic and open way possible. City planning is not a technical process but is instead deeply political. We can not entrust the planning of the a city to ‘experts’ and ‘technicians’ whose objective is to mould cityscape as per the power of their will. We are trying to plan the poor out of existence-eliminating them from imaginings of the city, sweeping them off the map. Our city will never resemble a master plan. After all, how do you plan informality? Can you plan informality?