Thursday, May 20, 2010

Coming Clean ((Or How I ound Enlightenment in a Trash Heap)

Development.
Big word.
And one that has always confused me. Used more liberally than salt in French fries, it’s a particular favourite of politicians. But what does it really mean?
It’s a question that has haunted me since….
Well, lemme start at the beginning.
Twenty-five years ago, when my dad decided to move to Mysore after retirement, it was a sleepy little town, dreaming happily of days when it was the glittering capital of a golden kingdom. Nothing much happened here except Dussera, but nobody was complaining. After all, what was there to complain when the Goddess was on Her hill and the sparkling waters of the Cauvery were indisputably ours and the sandalwood flourished and the air was scented by our very own Mysore mallige.
Ah, the Mysore air.
You know, normally Mysoreans are modest folk, preferring to hide their mallige under a bushel. But the one thing – other than palaces and Mysore pak - that did make us puff our chests out and brag was the fact that when we built a house, we didn’t allocate a budget for fans. We didn’t need to. The Goddess and Her verdant hill made sure - with judiciously timed showers - that for large parts of the year, fans were dispensable.
Ten years ago, when I moved to Mysore from Mumbai it was pretty much the same story. But the whispers had already begun.
“Development!” they hissed, “Mysore needs development!”
And strange things began to happen.
First, the invasion of the two-wheelers, spawning furiously like a pestilence of mechanical rodents, the banks playing eager, obsequious midwives with no-questions-asked-no-paperwork loans. And as they gobbled up road, air and parking space, the cars arrived, hatched by VRS and car loan melas. And then the first traffic jams made their Mysore debut.
Development, I wondered?
As I did, Mysore began to sprawl in every direction in an untrammelled epidemic of residential colonies where most of the “houses’ so flagrantly violated every construction bye-law that you could not only smell your neighbour’s fart but also tell exactly how many pods of garlic ent into that avarekai saaru. Perhaps this was “development”, I thought, as I tripped on another mound of rubble and cement because a neighbour was building a “maadi”. 
But I wasn’t sure.
Even when the malls and commercial complexes – ghastly, glittering-glassy-eyed monsters – began to appear, uprooting the beautiful old bungalows that we were almost as proud of as the rest of the palace-pak enchillada. And what puzzled me was this. If this development thingie was supposed to mean more jobs for our young folk, then why were so many of them still leaving town for “better prospects”, leaving their old folk to rattle around in these bungalows and ultimately sell them off because they couldn’t maintain them any more?
I wasn’t sure even when forests of mobile towers started growing out of our rooftops and mobiles in place of ears and when the mallige started coming Tamil Nadu. And not even when we had to use fans - sometimes even in winter. You see, since we were running out of urban-sprawl space, we decided that surely one Goddess didn’t need an entire hill all to Herself. So, we started regularly stripping it of its beautiful green cover, even burning some of it. Naturally, the Goddess, in disgust, decided we didn’t deserve those cooling round-the-year showers any more and the famous Mysore air slowly withered and shrivelled up.
Even then, I wasn’t sure.
Till recently, when I have finally found the answer - in garbage.
The area where I live was once a boringly clean neighbourhood. But now piles of garbage and overflowing garbage bins dot it. And that can mean only one thing.
Yup, development.
Here’s how. Development, I’m told, means more money to spend. And more money means more consumption. So much more that our poor Mysore Municipal Corporation can no longer handle the resulting bumper crop of shi…er, I mean garbage that we generate. 
I know – you’re outraged that I could write something like this when Mysore has just been declared the second cleanest city in India And compared to most Indian cities, it is still is - one of the cleanest and the prettiest.
But not for long. Mysore’s infrastructure is already stretched to its limits. The JNNURM projects inspire nobody’s confidence and almost every week we’re privy to squabbles between the officials and the city authorities. Potholes are routine, drains overflow with raw sewage every monsoon and every summer we play the roulette of water shortage. If Mysore hasn’t collapsed, it is because the threat of making it a Tier-II city still remains a threat.
This road leads to only one destination.
In other words, it’s time to wake up and smell the garbage.

1 comment:

suruchi said...

I don’t know how you do it....
But you always end up doing it!
Give a slap across someone’s deserving face, dripping with honey to baffle and yet have an effect!

Now if only your government would listen!
The cost of development entails many “fors” and plenty of “against”
As long as the fors have a one-up on against we survive and bear...

Let’s hope the against don’t win this battle in the end!
If you are pained to see the sight of Mysore...cities like mine*Kanpur* would make you run with your good life, for it is enough to give one an irreversible heart attack!:-(