Friday, January 20, 2006

Venice in Yelahanka!?!

Incongruity What, Where?

Venice is apparently the most enchanting place on earth, and it is being recreated in good old suburb of Bangalore called Yelahanka. Inspired by the magical landscape of Venice, the new luxury apartment complex in Yelahanka will be equipped with not just sparkling waterways and lush gardens it will also have a vast piazza and even a magnificent Bell Tower! So a public square or market place will be in the midst of high rise apartment blocks. Well maybe it will be a place where all the street hawkers who carry vegetable baskets on their heads will assemble everyday, or the place where scores of men who exchange old clothes for utensils will make a raucous, calling out to the many matrons of the flats. But a bell tower in an apartment complex? I wonder what this will be used for. Since Bangalore [or is it Bengalooru] is a city of the future, maybe the bell will be used for reminding the inhabitants of the apartments the intervals of time, with a loud gong every hour and twelve gongs at noon. Also, every aspect of this high end home will be very thoughtfully designed. It will have all the amenities required for the people inside the large compound of Venicelahanka. From vitrified floors to ornate lobbies leading to water purifying plants, the place will be packed with look-alike artifacts from Venetian palaces and buildings. With swimming pools, health spas, Jacuzzis, tennis courts and gyms, the inhabitants will not have to step out of the compound for days on end, excepting of course to buy Mortein mosquito mats, for the swarms which will make the waterways their homes. Or maybe, people in Venicelahanka will board their Gondola and take their gently rocking boats to the Piazza to buy mosquito coils every time the gong from the bell tower sounds!

Originality When, How?

Who wants originality when one can experience “the spirit of Venice” in Bangalore’s homes. Who is bothered about the function of architecture when form can fake the luxury of having cobbled streets and Grecian relief in ones backyard? Incongruity be dammed if the nouveau rich can have the feeling of floating in a narrow gondola through the waterways of Venice to get to their neighbor’s apartment. This kind of a faking of reality is cancerous according to me. This is not only creativity at its gaudiest but also a relinquishing of one’s cultural integrity. The problem is not that people crave for a luxurious lifestyle but a need to ape the west in such irrelevant pretences.

Culture? Naw, we want tradition baby!

Culture is always mistaken with tradition. In the name of copying the western culture, we Indians end up copying their architecture and dress codes and not their values. We want the cobbled streets of Geneva in our cities but not the Swiss sense of quality. We want the fountains of Berlin in our parks but not the punctuality of the Germans. We want Italian automobiles on our roads but don’t have the basic decency to wait for the traffic signal to turn green before proceeding. Culture police will lament about how globalization and free markets have eroded Indian culture by allowing such incongruity to set in, but will not question the lack of self integrity when it comes to choosing the right things. Then people will indulge in wasteful activities like re-christening of cities to have a sense of belonging with one’s culture and tradition. Unfortunately, it is only the tradition of the west that we seem to ape and not their value systems. Concepts like free trade, punctuality, quality and common road sense seem lost to us, but a gargoyle shaped fountain is what we aspire for in our luxury homes!

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