The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, July 2, 2000

Urban wasteland

THIS refers to "Urban Wasteland" by Jagmohan (June 11). In a thought-provoking write-up, he has laid bare the horrifying picture of modern urbanisation.

The role of urban life has been a mixed one. On the one hand, it has freed man from the conservatism of the village, enriched his life by imparting urbanity, civility and diversity, while on the other hand, rather over and above, the city has bred poverty and dehumanised its citizens and engulfed them in mechanisation crime waves. As Alexis de Tocqueville described Manchester of the 19th century "In the city, humanity attains its most complete development and its most brutish; here civilisation works its miracles and civilised man is turned back almost into savage". The same thing was echoed by the great poet Oliver Goldsmith in his poem "The Deserted Village". He wrote Ill fares the land... where wealth accumulates and men decay."

Because of the heterogeneity of our present civilisation, Delhi has become a chaotic city. It is now the fourth worst populated city in the world.About 2000 metric tonnes of pollutants are injected in the atmosphere every day. The quality of water in the Yamuna that flows through Delhi has deteriorated to such an extent that it has been categorised as "E" which means that water is not even fit for drinking by animals or for use in agriculture.

  There are jostling crowds, choked roads, stifling smoke, deluge of vehicles with honking horns, tricksters and cheats in the garb of autorickshaw, drivers taxi and touts of all kinds.It may seem uncharitable to say so but Delhi bristles with charlatans, cheats, criminals thugs and imposters. Now take the case of Bombay, Bombay shows no different strands than Delhi. There is a great pressure of the underworld mafia in Bombay too. Moreover, Bombay is a city in which about 50 per cent of the population already lives in miserable slums breeding disease and disorder. The death rate there is about 20 per cent higher than the rest of Maharashtra.

A couple of years ago The Tribune brought out a number of reports about the conditions of several towns in northern India All these reports had one thing in common, the general tendency of the citizens to grumble but not to organise themselves into dynamic force to secure for their cities a clean, healthy and culturally and intellectually elevating life. T.S. Eliot has bemoaned urban life in The Waste Land and The Hollow Men.

Diseased civilisations will have dehumanised cities which would be littered with slums and shacks.Replanning the cities and making them slum-free cannot be an act of isolated reform; it involves a vaster task of reorienting the fundamental forces that govern the life a nation.


Please listen

"Please listen, its parliament" by K.K. Khullar (June 11) was highly readable.Speeches in the parliament are so dull that many literally go to sleep and some even start snoring! Once the then Duke of Devonshire dreamt that he was addressing the House of Lords only to realise on waking up that he was actually doing so! A bewildered member asked him "Are you dead or alive"

"Deadly alive," was the reply he got.

We all know of Krishna Menon’s long speech in the UN Assembly. Atea addict, he drank 40 cups of tea daily, probably to sustain his speeches!

The writer has rightly suggested that our MPs should undergo a course in speaking and listening as well. But it should contain wit and humour too to break the monotony of dull moments. Kings and emperors in ancient India maintained court jesters for this purpose. Perhaps Akbar would have been terribly bored without Birbal!


Food for health

This refers to Harkiran Sodhi’s recipes "Cool it with... (May 28). It seems the author is keen to keep the people’s taste buds alive, without bothering about the consequences it may have on the person’s health and well-being. From the medical and nutritional point of view, many combinations of foods are not permitted by health experts. Combinations as alkaline cucumber juice and lactic acid produced by milk, or milk producing its own lactic acid and curd containing lactic acid are examples. The biochemical reactions induced by ingestion of such wrong food combinations, not only lead to gastrointestinal upsets, but may also cause skin disorders. The author should concentrate more on "food for health" than "food for taste but bad for health".

Many a time the main reason for a person’s ill-health is the wrong food one eats, aptly opined by Hippocrates ages ago, "Thy food is thy medicine"!