Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Shootout over Parking near City Beautiful - Inevitable

The first news I noticed today was about a shooting in Mohali over a quarrel over parking. I can sympathize with the victims family as I have bottled up a lot of anger against neighbours who have at least 4 cars and we have had to learn how to park and take out our car with relatively complex maneuver for people our age.

The sadness is that the people who can have many expensive cars can show off their wealth by buying such vehicles. However, they are not well off enough to buy or rent a place where they can park such objects of 'desire'. Actually, come to think of it, people like us could not possibly have bought the place where we are staying were it not for our grandparents' and parents' foresight -  even if accidental.

So, the general hostility towards even 4 storey "high rises!" amuses and saddens me. It is indeed highly undesirable to have tiny plots with 4 storeys with narrow roads leading up to them. Solution would be to find ways by which a whole area can be redeveloped rather than merely blocking haphazard growth. If no solution is allowed, people will find ways of circumventing the rules.

I used to work on the 4th floor(ground + 4) of a building in the commercial heart of Chandigarh - Sector 17. Each block consists of adjoining but independent plots. So, each little building has a narrow, ugly stairway. Our building had a non-functional lift, most likely because it was too expensive to maintain. In general, the ground floor is very  valuable but, I expect, that the upper floors are not.

What if the all the adjoining plots were consolidated and a single complex built. It would be economical to have nice lifts, escalators, toilet facilities and each floor would be commercially valuable. Everyone but the shops on the ground floor would benefit.

The same setup is true for each of the markets in each sector. Originally, the space above the shop was probably intended for the residence of the shop owners. I know of only one such instance now in our sector's market.  The sector markets need urgent redevelopment. Most shoppers even from within the sector come on cars and not walk. The shop owners have cars. The parking is a mess. The traffic flow is already chaotic.

And we still advertise is as city beautiful and want to insist that everything should be as per the original Le Corbousier plan :(

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Digital cable and discovering European channels

I was saddened by the disappearance of BBC Entertainment from India. Hence, it was quite a surprise to channel surf and find German channel DW in English and TV5 Monde, French with English subtitles on many of the shows.

The first pleasure is the pleasure of watching a show without interruptions. I think I have not had that experience since watching PBS in US 40 years ago! And I do not have to run to decrease volume during the announcements! It is such a civilized experience :)

I like the documentaries as they offer a different perspective. E.g. there was a show about crime or rather its impact on the victims. I am also delighted to find that French cinema has not been taken over by Hollywood. The story matters and is not overwhelmed by special effects. I had loved French cinema in the 60's and 70's, especially the New Wave, and could watch films by Truffaut, Rohmer, Bresson, Bunuel and more any number of times :)

I wanted to give feedback to Rajya Sabha TV and Lok Sabha TV where the interruptions seem unnecessary. However, the feedback form asks for too much information and, at the end of it, it mentioned that I had entered an incorrect character and I could not find any. I had just used [0-9a-zA-Z,.]. At best there may have been an enter as well. It doesn't matter as the suggestion would have been ignored anyway.

I like these channels as they often have discussions which are not shouting matches, speakers being interrupted in mid-sentence and obnoxious behaviour by the comperes. There is, though, an unfortunate trend to follow the commercial channels and make the shows look similar with multiple windows and occasional aggressive behaviour.

Even DD could dispense with ads and schedule a break between shows where longer informative commercials could be shown. I saw such a commercial on DW of Frankfurt Airport and I watched it!

My father did not like it but I would have liked to have been born a European - well, actually, a Finn!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Is there hope for living a good life in Chandiarh?

It doesn't take any psychic abilities to know that Chandigarh residential areas are headed in the direction of the terrific colonies like Greater Kailash and South Ex in New Delhi.

It is a matter of time before we will be fighting with neighbours over which part of the road is meant for whose car.

The houses belonged to my grandparents' and parents' generation. They are passing on to the hands of my children's generation. It is inevitable that the need for additional accommodation has arisen and municipality is rising to the needs of the people. It has allowed additional area to covered and provided additional fsi.

Of even greater significance is the need to unlock the value of the land when the inheritors are scattered across the world. We see houses around us demolished to be replaced by lovely flats. As it is, we are inconvenienced by our neighbours who have at least 4 cars. The honking of vehicles trying to make their way into and out of the colony irritates me to no end. The inconvenience is bound to increase.

Hopefully, we will go back to Goa and take a place in a quiet village by the time living in our neighbourhood becomes an aggravation.

But does it have to follow the inevitable route? We can't wish away the population or the rising land prices which make the conversion to flats such an attractive proposition. However, nature will find solutions even if we don't. Take this extract from the Wikipedia on Rennaisance as an example:
The demographic decline due to the plague had some economic consequences: the prices of food dropped and land values declined by 30 to 40% in most parts of Europe between 1350 and 1400.[38] Landholders faced a great loss but for ordinary men and women, it was a windfall. The survivors of the plague found not only that the prices of food were cheaper but also found that lands were more abundant, and that most of them inherited property from their dead relatives.
 I have actually been fascinated by high rises. While high rise slums as seen in crime films and tv serials look depressing, living in a lovely flat in Manhattan was a very attractive experience. What if the city decided that the fsi would be based on the area of the plot which is covered. Lower the covered area, higher the fsi. Also, what if the whole block of houses could be torn down and the entire block rebuilt with high rises. Each block would have open spaces to play and socialise. The parking would be within the building. Even  shopping complexes and office spaces could be within the building. It would be a different lifestyle. Not like the old days of Chandigarh but, mercifully, not like Greater Kailash and South Ex either.

But I am sure the path of reconstructing block as high rises will just not happen - at least not in my lifetime.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Please don't make Panaji into a 'world class' city

One of the  benefits of digital cable is that they are showing France's tv5monde and Germany's! It is remarkable how much better the viewing experience is without ads.

A few days ago, I came across a show on competition on tv5monde - LE VILLAGE PRÉFÉRÉ DES FRANÇAIS:
There are 22 villages, each more beautiful than the last. Each charming town offers a unique experience (rural, coastal, natural preserve, etc.). Each one has an extraordinary historical and cultural heritage. But which one was voted THE favourite village by the French?
It would be nice to have such a competition in Goa - probably the only state in India where the villages aand towns are actually comfortable. It may result in the once lovely places like Calangute and Candolim trailing badly and, hopefully, changing the mindset of the people.

I felt saddened by the failure of Skybus Metro as some facility like that is needed in order to discourage the migration of people towards urban centers. I wish politicians would consciously avoid making Panaji a 'world class city'; however, that is highly unlikely.

Urbanization results in phenomenal growth in the property values and how else can one get :
..holding company had assets worth Rs 287 crore as of end-March 2012 — much of it in cash — up from only Rs 43 crore at the end of March 2008.
Quite possibly all the success by just having advance information(insider trading?).

Thought Control the Goal? : Censured for irresponsibly expressing "ideas" that could hurt people

The day started badly. I looked at the newspaper and two headlines stared at me -
I was already depressed. I am reading A Clockwork Orange. The blurb on the back says -
"I do not know any other author who has done as much with language ...a very funny book' William S. Burroughs
I haven't searched for the original quote but that is obviously a statement out of context. I can't believe that Burroughs could have ever meant 'funny' - not even like Dr. Strangelove. Anyway, the book was ordered online and the blurb on the back had no influence on me except now to increase my irritation at marketeers.

I can't help but wonder if anyone in India would have allowed this book to be published. As per the introduction, Burgess had felt guilty that perhaps the book might have had an influence on the cult of violence. He shouldn't have as I doubt if even a single person indulging in mindless violence had ever read his book or even heard of him.

A Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove are two unforgettable films by Stanley Kubrick. So, when my son saw A Clockwork Orange in the US recently, my interest in it was revived and I became curious about the chapter left out by Kubrick in the film. Now that I am retired, I can sit in the sun and read this phenomenal, though hard to read, book.

The book is even more relevant today as I avoid looking at the daily doze of news items about 'ultra-violence', which make me cringe.