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Just like human beings, cities also have a unique personality and a collective consciousness of their own. The character of the residents is a major determinant of the same. This, in turn, is formed by the kind of livelihood opportunities the city provides. Some other factors are its political and economic profile, its infrastructure, the culture it espouses, the manner in which it showcases and markets its heritage and special features, and the kind of vision its founders and subsequent administrators have had and have acted upon.

One of the ways to discover some facets of a city is to soak in its architectural heritage. A recent trip to Chicago offered an opportunity for yours truly to do precisely this. I could see some of the city’s architectural masterpieces in a single 90-minute boat tour.

I learnt something about the city’s architectural history through an expert’s live narration. I am no expert in building designs, but was happy to be told of buildings which provide space for air to pass through them on higher floors, thereby making them more stable. This avoids residents getting jittery while either having a shower in their luxurious bath tubs or trying to have a quiet dinner with wine glasses and cutlery on the table doing a Salsa or a Chesterton. In a windy city like Chicago, this makes eminent sense.

A bunch of wide-eyed tourists like me attempted to absorb some of the rich information being provided by the narrator, duly laced with some Wodehousean humour.

Here are some of the visuals I could capture while on the cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cruise takes one through the famous ‘Y’ of the Chicago River. It is interesting to learn that since 1900 AD, civil engineering knowledge has been used to reverse the flow of this water body, creating a man-made hydraulic connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi watershed.

The boat cruise became possible due to the support of a loving family in Chicago which hosted me and put up with my tantrums for a few days, and also owing to the presence of a loving nephew and his family who took the trouble of flying in all the way from Los Angeles just to meet up – a creditable feat, what with a tiny toddler who behaved well and did not grudge the attention showered on yours truly by his loving parents for the time we happened to be together.

Travel is highly educational, said Jeeves. At times, one feels grateful to one’s Guardian Angels for being in a benevolent mood and ensuring that things fall in place for such an instructive experience as the boat cruise I could enjoy.

More to follow in some subsequent posts.

 

 

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ashokbhatia

happiness

We are like grains of sand

On a beach sunlit by brilliant rays of hope;

Repeatedly we get swept back by strong relentless waves

Of our own wishes and desires,

Leaving us in torment at times, unable to cope.

They keep coming one after the other

Keeping us tied to our senses;

Distracting us from the true purpose of life,

Always wanting more and more,

Vulnerable, never able to mend our fences.

Fulfilment of one does not always mean

Growing out of it;

Instead, the intensity could get multiplied,

Leaving us with a poor self-perception

And an inner state lacking happiness, dark and poorly lit.

Often we wonder if there is a way

To become like a hard rock;

Having an inner resilience

Bouncing back the waves which keep splashing against us,

Receiving cravings and desires which we can simply mock.

Let them break on our external crust

And return…

View original post 206 more words

ashokbhatia

When the dark clouds of sorrow envelop us and Life makes us glum,

A brilliant ray of humour breaks through in the form of a narrative Plum;

The deep blues of despair and despondency get chased away,

Replaced by a warm glow of joy which holds us in its sway.

There is no problem which a brilliant Jeeves cannot solve,

Be it an intellectual girl friend or a scheming aunt with a goofy resolve;

When he shimmers in with one of his pick-me-ups on a tray,

Our hangovers evaporate, making us forget all shades of grey.

All his solutions are based on the psychology of the individual,

His approach to solving problems is often circuitous and gradual;

Breaking a few eggs to make an omelette is a sign of his maturity,

By ensuring his master never ties the knot, he enjoys job security.

With a pal like Bertie Wooster around…

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Blog posts from the stable of Plumtopia are invariably intended to amuse, educate and entertain. Savour this and rediscover the child within you!

Plumtopia

schoolstories

Admiration for the works of P.G. Wodehouse is not a competitive sport. The merest whiff of appreciation for The Code of The Woosters, one of Wodehouse’s most popular novels, will be sufficient for other Wodehouse fans to scoop you lovingly into the fold. For as Wodehouse once wrote:

There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.

Strychnine in the Soup

However, a knowledge of Wodehouse’s school stories – written, as the name suggests, for younger readers — will set you apart as a more serious enthusiast.

These books can be read in any order. If you’re not a fan of the genre, I suggest starting with Mike and Psmith, starring Mike Jackson and Rupert Psmith (the ‘p’ is silent as in pshrimp). I love this story so much that I included it in my top five Wodehouse books.

Wodehouse school stories…

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The Art Gallery at Trondheim has a large collection of Norwegian art from around 1850 up to the present. It also has an impressive collection of Danish art and a significant representation of other renowned international artists.

Savour some of these at leisure:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see artworks of a different culture is quite instructive. The kind of natural forces the people deal with. The kind of life they led. Such mundane happenings as calling a physician, visiting the town square, listening to a street musician or even depicting the means of livelihood of people – all these get captured in exquisite detail. Portraits of some persons – famous or otherwise – invariably form an integral part of the art collection. Even abstract art conveys the inner state of the artist at the time the work was getting done, possibly with a benevolent muse by his side!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/a-walk-around-the-city-of-trondheim-in-norway-part-1-of-2)

 

 

 

 

Just like human beings who boast of a life cycle, many of our cities also undergo cyclical changes. These gain importance over a period of time and then end up losing it at times, based on their economic and political fortunes at a given point in time.

But a ready supply of natural resources and the indomitable spirit of those who inhabit our cities ensure that these continue to thrive and do well. Over time, their character might change from that of a major trading centre to a well-known hub of education and scientific research.

Some may suffer repeatedly at the hands of Logi, the Nordic Fire God, and experience devastating fires, only to rise again from the ashes, much like a Phoenix would. Others may witness riots because of a proposal to change the name of the city, leaving The Bard squirming in his grave. Through all these challenges, the city continues to thrive. The resilience of the human spirit reigns supreme.

Recently, yours truly had the opportunity of a leisurely stroll or two through the streets of Trondheim in Norway. One can trace its origins back to the Viking Age circa 997 AD. It served as the capital of Norway until 1217. In the olden days, it appears to have handled the kind of challenges described above with much aplomb.

Here are some visuals which might appeal to some of you.

The Nidelva River

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Art and Buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nidaros Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last one, located within the premises of the Cathedral, is a monument commemorating those who lost their lives during the World War II.

Night view from the Egon revolving restaurant

 

As with most historic cities of the day, Trondheim also appears to be striking a fine balance between preserving its heritage and absorbing contemporary building designs. One merely hopes that forces of crass commercialism are kept on a tight leash by those who matter.

Stay tuned for a saunter down the Trondheim Museum of Arts!

It is fashionable these days to speak of our beloved city metamorphosing into what is euphemistically referred to as a Smart City. Here is a contrary view which may find resonance with some of its residents.

These nameless denizens may instead like to lead a leisurely life in a city where:

  1. The need to jump out-of-the-way of a speeding vehicle gets minimized – in other words, hapless pedestrians and bicycle riders have the right of way; the use of horns and loudspeakers attract a hefty fine, leaving the offender crying all the way to his bank.
  2. Warehouses and hotels are not permitted within the boulevard limits, leaving the narrow streets peaceful and resident-friendly. Elderly and ailing residents need no longer complain of being startled at times – either by the incessant growling of commercial vehicles during days or by the sound pollution generated by tourist vehicles during nights.
  3. More parks, where citizens could stretch their limbs and try to fight off such lifestyle diseases as diabetes and hypertension, thereby warding off cardiac blues. Likewise, a denser coverage of main streets by trees with thick foliage, with water dispensing kiosks, toilets and garbage bins dotting the landscape liberally. What Pondicherry needs are more Ashe Marsons (of ‘Something Fresh’ fame) who are fond of brisk walks and Larsen Exercises in open spaces.
  4. All crossings within the boulevard area have convex mirrors at corners, thereby avoiding speeding-bike-enthusiasts routinely crashing into other vehicles, thereby putting life and limb to grave risks.
  5. All crossings across the canal are made obstruction free, avoiding blind spots and congestion on Gingee Salai and Ambour Salai. (As of now, the Vysial Street crossing is the only good example of a blind-spot free crossing across the canal.) Mandatory mini parks could be planned at all these corners. Shops peddling terracotta articles near the Ashram can be relocated to other suitable places, so the road on that stretch becomes clearer for traffic.
  6. The dependence on tourism alone to prop up the local economy is given a lower priority; where the powers that are exercise their grey cells better, hold consultations with business leaders so innovative ways to augment the territory’s revenues get planned and implemented. A concerted drive towards industrialization by using SEZ-earmarked and other parcels of land available could help. So could a hefty increase in registration charges for petroleum-driven vehicles, with substantial rebates for those who go in for greener vehicles.
  7. A multi-modal public transport system gets implemented in a mission mode, with battery operated vehicles alone being permitted within the boulevard area.
  8. Water channels and aquifers get revitalized, with the single aim of making Pondicherry a model in reversing the trend of increasing ground water salinity. A long-term plan to ward off the ill effects of rising sea levels and to tackle incessant rains also needs to be put in place.
  9. Strict ban on plastic bags of all kinds; a scientifically designed garbage collection and disposal system, duly backed by latest technology.
  10. Cooperation and collaboration at the top, leading to a visionary development of Pondicherry.

Call it a ‘smart’ one or a ‘dumb’ one, but the above features, if worked upon by those in charge of making things happen, would surely make the denizens of Pondicherry a healthier and a happier lot in the long term.

These would retain the essential character of the territory. What the planners would do well to avoid would be adopting a soulless materialistic ‘smart’ plan which would leave the residents gasping for clean air, yearning for sparkling water and ardently wishing for a sound of silence which would enable a person standing on Ambour Salai to hear the unmistakable melody of ocean waves on the main beach road.

(Notes:

  1. A version of this article can also be found at https://www.pondylive.com/2018/08/smart-city-pondicherry-why-some-of-us-prefer-a-dumb-city;
  2. Pondicherry montage courtesy www;
  3. Pondicherry street scene illustration by Emanuel Scanziani for Le Club, Pondicherry)

 

(Related posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/reinventing-pondicherry

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/puducherry-2025-a-traveller%E2%80%99s-memoirs)