Mallika Writes: Just Speaking

December 12th - DNA

How is a city known? Sometimes by its monuments. Sometimes because of its food or art. But mostly by the people. One hears people saying, “Oh New Yorkers are always in a rush.” Or, “Parisiens are really unfriendly and arrogant”. Or, “The Italians are so warm”.

What then is the Ahmedabadi? Yes we are foodies. Yes we are stingy. Yes we are traders and business people. But are we content with that?

I for one am not and that is why we have launched this extensive and all encompassing event called 600 Not Out.

If the city is to be known for her people, we must first ask, do we know our city? Increasingly as life has picked up pace and as most of us struggle in one way or another to keep afloat – time wise, financially or educationally – our beat tends to become our city. College to mall, to cinema theatre to grand parents house. That’s it. Or Naroda gam to factory to in-laws house to mandir and back. But have we noticed the changing hues of the city? The growing cement blocks and disappearing trees ( AMC claims notwithstanding)? The increasing beggars and impoverished plastic huts? The ghettoization of various areas into cultural or language groups?

In two competitions called Citylights Photography and Short Film competitions we want Ahmedabadis to stop and think of what they feel truly represents the city for them in different epochs. The Chippas have been printing for centuries. In Bhatiyar Gali Salim is the 7th generation of a cooking family, the Bhatiyars. Do they represent the past any less than the more obvious Jhulta Minara. The Hindu families who look after some of the Muslim shrines have also had the duty passed on to them for many generations. Are they the past face of the city today? And what of colours or smells? Sounds? Does the mill siren represent our past?

About the present. What can we have representing the city which is specific to Ahmedabad alone? Not the buildings or the Malls, or the bright but omnipresent branded shops ( now even in our new Delhi airport termina), nor the wide but pot holed roads. These could represent any of our cities as could the unfinished buildings and the beggared workers living under plastic sheets bereft of all basic necessities of a dignified life. These too could be Bangluru or Gurgaon. Have you thought about this? Isn’t it worth a few moments of thought? Perhaps the Indian Insititute of Management building, a known icon and a much copied one?

Even more difficult perhaps, what in our city represents our future? Must it be a future that we fear or one that we wish for?

A city’s birth celebration is a time for its people to re-imagine and reinvent a city, for what we  are doing today will be what future generations will look back on to as our contribution to an ongoing city. And it is a task we must take on with gravity and gravitas.

With 600 Not Out and its many events we invite all those who live in and love this city to participate in thinking through the city we want to be in, the city we want to own and be proud of, the city we want to leave as a living and throbbing city, a kind and generous city, to our children and their children. Come let us put our minds and thoughts together, and think alive the city we want to be proud of.

December 12th, 2010, DNA


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