Mainland Lobster

I spent the last week in Gurgaon staying at a well known complex on the Golden Mile dotted will malls & swank buildings with Metro defining the sky line. It is an impressive sight, rare in India & supposedly aspirational to small town India where I reside. Is this visionary sight a delight only for the eye? What about sounds, smells, taste & touch?
No one shall argue that the Golden Mile is a perennial noise bomb – those who missed this probably never rolled down their auto windows or found a direct route from homes to glass encased malls & offices – where the option of opening a window – has long disappeared.
One can smell almost everything & vaguely misses what may be termed as aroma of ‘crisp & clean’. I wondered if the Adidas adorned joggers partaking Perrier or RO at least were aware of increased intake of a mix that came bundled with lots more than the intended O2.
The respirational filter worked overtime precipitating on the palate a thick coating that called for frequent use of a tongue scraper if one wished to experience tastes that are subtle. No wonder that the most favored cuisines are the ones with the strong flavors viz. Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Thai & such besides Indian – but not French as it will be hard to detect taste with a tongue that has an additional layer being continuously replenished with the act of breathing.
As most may be aware a lobster is lulled to sleep & eventual demise by slowly increasing the temperature of water in the cauldron in which it is placed. I wonder whether we in these cities are similarly being seduced by glitz & glamour that dazzles & titillates on the outside but leads to slow death.
Death is inevitable in both big & small towns but there is increasing confirmation of loss of fertility & libido – the essence of life force – & the suspect culprit is urban lifestyle.
Fact is that none of the major metros of India were built by Indians. Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Delhi – had British, Portuguese, Mughal architects. Chandigarh – the first post independence city was envisioned by French & has inspired imitations all over India. Gurgaon is entirely indigenous – as are Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, South Delhi, Navi Mumbai, etc. Irony is also in names. While we Indianised the names of the cities created by invaders, almost all new complexes developed have Anglicized names. It is all part of an aspirational package. ‘We have arrived’ syndrome.
It is true that there is no place to go. The residents of Mumbai & NCR may have endless debates on which city is better but the cold hard fact is that both are increasing unfit for human habitation. Calcutta exists to provide nostalgia to its migrants elsewhere & Bangalore is gored already.
Don’t we all wish for a resurrection of a Howard Roarke, should he come by where is the clean slate that we could provide him to draw & build a new Metropolis?
Meanwhile, there is dignity in being a mainland lobster – or so we must tell ourselves.

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