Of difficulty of ‘footloosing’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Sep 2018 09:52:15




Vijay Phanshikar,


Beyond doubt, Nagpur is changing because its landmarks are changing. A man who happens to visit the city now after, say five years, will not be able to identify places. So much change is taking place and so rapidly. There is little doubt that change is the component of constancy in life. Yet, one wonders if all the change that is taking place in Central India’s biggest city is necessary, or it is being undertaken only for some politically-motivated visibility. It is sure, however, that the average Nagpurian is bewildered at present, almost totally non-plussed, not knowing how to react and respond to the massive physical change that is being forced upon the city that was described just a few years ago as an expanded village, in the sense of its laid-back lifestyle.

Wherever you go, you see change. Roads are changing. Old landmark buildings are being pulled down. New structures are replacing the old ones. And if this is happening on sites and plots that had been occupied before by other entities, there is this Metro Rail project that is butting smack in the middle of the roads East-West, North-South. Metro Stations are encroaching upon existing structures and plots of land. Rumours are flying left-right-and-centre that this building will be razed to ground in favour of a Metro Station, or the premises of that building will be pushed back to accommodate some other Metro activity.

But one thing is sure -- both agencies, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) and the Metro Rail Corporation (MahaMetro) are competing with each other to twist the city out of shape, of course in the name of mending and tending it for better. And both seem to have gobbled up projects that they cannot chew, to use a cliched expression. The result is obvious: the whole city is in a terrible mess, and there seems nobody who knows how to take control of things so that the whole change is managed in a neat and
sensible manner.

Of course, there is a big hype about MahaMetro being efficient organisation. Of course, there is a lot of PR about its successful project management. Of course, however, there is no evidence that supports all that hype the way in which the MahaMetro officials claim. Because there has been a terrible media clamour about mismanagement of its operations, MahaMetro is now visibly trying to rectify things, though to only a limited success. For, wherever the Metro path passes, there is devastation of order, and a plunder of the city’s earlier sense of serenity.

As if not willing to lag behind, the NMC is also adding its sense of chaos to the city. And unfortunately, the roads are the laboratory in which all experiments of public disorder are conducted. Everything is on the roads. And because everything is on the roads, the people’s ire, too, is being expressed on the roads, about the roads, and for the roads. True, the people learn rather quickly to make peace in the available conditions. So, they learn to manage their affairs in the existing chaos.

But if one section of the people is ready to accommodate the change and its torrid pace, the larger section, that is the overall population, so to say, has remained steadfastly unchanged in its ways and means. The people are yet unwilling to change the pace of their commutation, unmindful of the trouble their ways and means cause to the others on the roads. Thanks to the massive chaos and change on the roads, traffic norms already stand tossed out of the window. Every sensible person, therefore realises that he has to make amends with his ways and means. But in just a few minutes on the road and one realises that there are not many sensible persons out there. For, everybody is in a hurry. Everybody is in no mood to understand that others, too, have an equal right to use the road. People are still spitting on the road from speeding vehicles, stopping their vehicles at any place either to talk on mobile phones or run to a wayside shop to buy things or even pick up a fight if there is a little snarl-up.

Unfortunately, the leaders who thought of introducing so much change in so little a time in Nagpur do not realise that they are not bothered about offering the city a sane social leadership. They just thought that they would change the city with waving sort of a magic wand in a matter of a few years. There must not be any such bad example of
thoughtless public leadership anywhere else in the world!

The grief is that in such a chaotic city, being a footloose is a problem. You cannot move freely and care-freely anywhere in the city. For, you are all the time haunted by the fear that somebody may bump into you, damage your car or hurl your two-wheeler onto the road and hurt you, or smash your (manual) bicycle and send you reeling straight to a hospital.

So, ‘footloosing’ in this kind of a place has become so difficult. For an inveterate ‘footlooser’ like me, things have become almost impossible. And when that happens, all one can do is lose one’s temper -- though silently -- and vent out the spleen privately.
That is what I am doing right now.