Friday, December 30, 2011

Fast Changing Scapes - Urbanization in India

A journey anywhere in India is an exciting proposition irrespective of the road conditions. Natural India is beautiful and at times mesmerizing.  The green fields dotted with forest clad hillocks and cute hamlets is what one expects with corresponding colors and changing countenance.

But to some one more discerning the rabid urbanization taking place foretells the damage. We drove from New Delhi to Nainital on a birding trip. The urbanization taking place is striking - it is everywhere. Concrete structures colonies, markets, eateries, factories, petrol pumps and whatnot. The resultant filth and squalor is clearly visible along the way.    

It is all through the way, a painful reminder of what happened to natural lands during the agricultural revolution. The industrial revolution is a second offensive on natural lands in India. Ill planned, rabid and reckless is how we can describe the concretization of our country. The structures are spreading around towns and cities like tentacles of Tarantula. 

Up on the hills the scenario is worse, the road to Sat Tal (Bhim Tal) is the worst case. Throughout  one finds hills dotted with colonies, houses and hotels.  The construction in the hills is taking over the  natural vegetation, forest clad hills, bush country, rivers and lakes. The natural beauty is a fast diminishing factor here. Large chunks of natural lands should be preserved in Uttranachal if the beauty has to remain. Devoid of any construction and inviolate, let me emphasize. 

I was saddened by the state of Sat Tal, one of the finest birding heaven, but how long it remains as such? We could feel the pinch as construction clears whatever is left of nature. Small niche habitats are being destroyed or cleared reducing species diversity. 

If India has to remain beautiful and attractive  a planned approach towards urbanization is due.   

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New Delhi

The city of ancient and modern edifices enthralls one and all. The capital city is the landing point for most of the inbound tourists in India. Besides New Delhi attracts thousands every day in search of jobs and carreer  adding to the ever growing conglomeration which including the NCR is the second largest in the World.

The city of Kutub Minar and Red Fort is an exotic admixture of ancient and modern India. The swanky roads are unique which carry the millions on cars, autos, buses and two wheelers. The metro or subway has added to the comfort of commuters sick of bustling traffic and frequent slow down thanks to traffic jams. 

On the roads the World seems to be on the move as one goes past the grandeur of  modern structures, offices, malls, five star hotels and uptown shopping centers. The city seems to be full of energy and vigour and expresses fantastic synergy with modern metropolis all over the World.

Paradoxically within the old by lanes things come to a slow down one practically  experiences a stand still.  Here one enters into an ancient era - India of old - which was once pride of the Mughals. Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi represents the exotic stereo typed Indian Baazar but nevertheless struggles to compete with Lutyens Delhi and contemporary modern surroundings that loom overpoweringly all around. 

The congested gullies of Chandini Chowk harbor old shops that sell traditional goods - some products of ancient civilizations that are still in use. This is an ideal place to fulfill once wishlist of out of the place and antique items that are unique to the country. 

For the first time visitor the experience is bizarre, the juxtaposition of edifices dating back to ancient India and looming skyscrapers. A conglomeration of junta living in layers of  civilization - ancient by traditions and ultra modern. The dirt, filth and squalor of busy baazars, congested localities and rural dwellings engulfed by the great metropolitan surroundings invite a cultural shock.      

The ultra modern city belies expectation of stray cows, snake charmers, magicians and naked fakirs. The International Airport stuns first time visitors as a grand architectural marvel of modern India. The sights and smells of this city is best experienced in old part - devoid of sterilized aroma of the bustling metro. Smells of bustling milieu, aromatic spices, foods, choked sewer, cow dung coupled with auto exhaust engulf the nostrils to the brim. This is India as it lives bereft of modernity.     

The cultural diversity is an amazing product of history of invasions and domination, repression and loot. Of many civilizations and dynasties that have stamped a deep rooted impressions on the cities landscape and its junta.  The pot potpourri is a result of thousand years of tortured history of wars and constant influx of invaders from Mughals to British. In contemporary India migrants have given a new twists to Delhi's flavors and astounding colors.  

The roadside eateries and Punjabi Dhabas are unique in the World besides exotic foreign restaurants and desi curry joints - all regional foodstuff is available here. For the connoisseurs of gastronomic delights the capital city is one stop gateway to Indian Foods. Eat what you want but ask first if you are a stranger to the city.

The major attractions are Red Fort, Kutub Minar, Lodhi Garden, Jantar Mantar,Laximi Narain Temple, India Gate, Parliament Building, Rastrapati Bhavan, ISKON Temple, Bahai Lotus Temple, Humayun's Tomb, Purana Kila, Birla Mandir, Akshardham and Jama Masjid.