Evanescence is just a word

Sampurna Chattarji

13 May 2013

In my new book of short stories about Bombay/Mumbai, the protagonist of the story titled ‘My Revenge on the Beast’ says: "In this city something is always disappearing. A piece of empty land disappears behind a sudden wall of asbestos sheets, so high, so closely guarded by uniformed men with red badges and black guns, it makes you wonder what could deserve such secrecy. You hear, as you pass, the whine of machinery, complaining, you hear the drone of earth-eaters, you hear shouts. Some months later you see the grey skeleton of a building towering above the asbestos skirting, no secrets now. It is ugly, pocked with holes where glass eyes will come. The piece of sky above the piece of no-longer empty land disappears. You never really saw the empty land until it disappeared. That’s when you remember the lean-to that had stood under the thickly clustered trees, the names of which you do not know, except, maybe, ‘tamarind’. You remember a squirrel leaping from tree to tree, signs of habitation, one gleaming aluminium pot, a broom, rich green grass that may have hidden snakes. You never realized how full that empty piece of land was until it disappeared."

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Urban Public Space and the World Class City

Rahul Srivastava & Matias Echanove

2 May 2013

When we valorize the idea of public space, we build on the virtues of the community, the commons, equality and citizenship. The fact that cities should have public spaces accessible by all is something that almost becomes an affirmation of mature national citizenship. No wonder the fact that the importance of public spaces in cities is scarcely questioned. What constitutes these public spaces, however, is more often a point of contention. From shopping malls to plazas, from sidewalks to parks, museums and pedestrian pathways, flea markets and bazaars – the contenders for public spaces are many.

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Farm Will

Parmesh Shahani

8 February 2013

I begin typing out this blog post in Mumbai airport as the police are lathi-charging young students in Delhi; Indian citizens who have stepped out to protest the violation of one of their own. My Twitter feed is scrolling rapidly as I'm following the action on the ground, full of rage and despair, like so many others in our country. A lot is to happen still. Manmohan is yet to ask "theek hai"? The girl (braveheart / Damini / Nirbhayi / Amanat / Jyoti) is yet to die. Several feet are yet to be inserted in several mouths by ourpoliticians and spiritual gurus. Dented-painted is yet to go viral. Ten-panel-talking heads neatly boxed and all talking the same time simultaneously on every channel (is the nightly newshour the new Ravan?) endlessly debating every second of the 'tragedy' - before, during, after, whether an award in her name is an honour or not and oh now for some 'breaking news', an 'exclusive' interview with the girl's father, savior, doctors, and what have you. The real 'breaking' takes place every five minutes, into commercials cleverly inserted by astute media-buyers, given that news is the new entertainment. (In contrast, what happens on Bigg Boss daily is news. How the boundaries blur, and how easily we forget... Urvashi Dholakia, anyone? Exactly.)

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Museum of Memories

Parmesh Shahani

10 January 2013

In this blog post, I want to revisit our Museum of Memories that we organized in December 2012. This was a one-day only event with live art, videos, dance, music, theater, fashion, technology, alternate reality games and more, all located within a 60,000 square feet empty Godrej warehouse that was scheduled to berazed the very next day. When I first stumbled across the warehouse in early November, I felt a strange connect. Appearances often conceal the true nature of things. What seemed like an ugly godown tostore agricultural feed from the outside, called out to me, telling me: look at me properly, see the beauty in my broken glass panes, my high ceiling dripping with shards of metal, my gnarled trees, my pocked walls, my soaring pillars. Recognize me for who I am. I am more than the sum of my parts. I am beauty.

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