Are cities losing their souls?

Walking on the streets in old parts of cities like Jaipur  ,Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmadabad, one can see the vestiges of the bygone era. It’s not just available in the form of architectural marvels of ancient times but it can also be seen in the way people go about their lives in the older parts of these cities. One can find a stark difference in the lifestyles of people living in ‘old’ and ‘new’ parts of the city. The ancient parts have retained the soul of the city in its original form while the modern infrastructure that grew around it has a different flavoring these times when most of the world’s biggest cities are facing challenge sowing to growing population and increasing pollution, it might appear frivolous to talk about something as indescribable as soul in the urban environment. However, it is vital to know the soul of a city for weaving development using the appropriate thread for keeping everything intact and the city sustainable. One of the famous books written on souls of the cities ‘Psyche and the City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis ‘talks about the souls of cities. It follows the elusive thread of soul in individual citizens, communities, and cities themselves by idiosyncratically exploring nineteen major urban areas around the world. Closer home, Delhi is a classic example. Old Delhi and New Delhi are not very far physically, just5 kms apart, but the culture and infrastructure facilities in both the parts are completely reverse. Old Delhi has many historical monuments while New Delhi has glass towers and . New Delhi has swanky shopping malls and international outlets while Old Delhi boasts of its traditional and extremely crowded Bazaars situated in narrow lanes. The new part of the city has McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC; the old Delhi hasold yet popular street food corners like eateries at Paranthe Wali Gali, chaatshops at Chawri Bazaar, Karims, etc. As we have observed in all the new cities that are being developed beside the old cities, most of them do not share the same lifestyle, food habits and culture. People who have lived in Old Delhi all their life still find the new parts of the city quite alien to their perception of the city. They find the new pockets unfamiliar because of unbridled growth and subsequent geographical polarization and disconnected community life. People in the two parts of the city live entirely different lives. They are different from each other, in terms of class, language and values. People living in the modern part of Delhi, for instance, rarely venture out to Chandni Chowk for eating food or for shopping. Most of the ‘elite’ living in Lutyen’s Delhi rarely ventures into the oldest and most central parts of the city such as Chawri Bazaar. The reverse is true for the residents of old city too though there are many threads that connect the old and new parts. Delhi Metro is one of the connecting links that connects both. Many pan city service delivery facilities by municipal corporations are also connecting the city in the same way and bring the citizens of both parts on the same pedestal. There is a need to retain the soul of the city to ensure the trajectory of their development is in tune with their inner strengths while keeping an eye on the prospects of modern cities.

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