The Mughals abandoned Fateh Pur Sikri in the 16th century. There was not enough water to drink. Even the mighty kings could not live in a place without water. Many of India’s burgeoning cities are beginning to reflect these dire straits. Delhi is becoming the pollution capital of the world. Members of the first world (Holding Your Breath in India) are moving out of the city. Countries are advising their staff to install air purifiers in their homes and residences.
Bangalore’s tryst with water is reaching epic proportions. Bore wells dug over the last ten years have sucked the ground dry. We have been digging deeper and deeper, in search of that elusive elixir. Any deeper and we may hit lava. The average Bangalorean spends more on water today as compared to milk. In our own complex, the cost of water has gone up by 150% in the last one year alone. Not to forget that Bangalore vies with Delhi on air pollution too.
Mumbai can breathe easy. The vast ocean lungs out its air. But come Monsoons and we have a city creaking at its spine holding the huge deluge of water engulfing it. History tells us of the many cities abandoned due to the outbreak of cholera and malaria. Old Goa became a Ghost City in the 17th century after epidemics ravaged the city.
And yet, day after day our cities expand. From a small nucleus, they have spread far and wide over several kilometers. Along the way, they are putting more and more of our lives in danger. The problem with us is, we do not create the future. The future just happens. It sort of just evolves based on how we solve the here and the now. The roads, the bridges and the metros we are constructing should have been around ten years ago. Building them now, and getting them operational in another 5 years will mean, we are still behind.
I work in the software industry. There comes a point in the life of every product, when we decide it’s time to retire it and build something new. Something that reflects the new reality. It happens with phones, automobiles, air crafts. Heck – it happens with buildings too! So many of us would have torn down our ancestral homes and built conventional ones. Of course there is the emotional angle to that. But, you realise, there is only so far you can go by patching up the old. You start thinking about it, when the first crack appears on the wall. Perhaps, the first crack can be bandaged. Soon, other cracks appear. The roof becomes leaky. The doors give away. You continue patching them for as long as you can. Your well wishers suggest you need to do something radical about it. But you obdurately carry on. Soon, you see there are lesser visitors to your home. They love you. But staying in that rickety place somehow overwhelms them. And then a wall collapses, or perhaps a roof caves in. Your only thought is where to spend the night. And where to stay the next day; and the next. There are no more doubts – you are moving on.
Are we waiting for the wall to collapse?