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City-scaping, for the better

Recently, one had the good fortune of meeting one of the city’s most respected architects, Kamu Iyer. It was related to the release of his fourth title, ‘Boombay: From Precinct to Sprawl’. To hear this expert, who will be completing 82 in two months’ time, speak fondly of the city’s diverse, rich landscape and, the change he’s witnessed over six decades nearly, was refreshing.

Contrary to what the naysayers might remark time and again, the city continues to churn out engaging, well- researched titles and, above all, stir up thought, ideas and debate about our buildings, our streets, our changing skylines, and offer possible solutions for the way forward as well.

As one sat in Iyer’s office, poring over pages from this just-released book, the architect-author seemed positive that all isn’t lost despite all that has happened, and that lessons must and can be learnt from the many mistakes that many modern-day planners have been making while reshaping this city. The energy, the vision and the desire to make this city more liveable, was admirable, inspiring. I, for one, had entered into the interaction, wondering how the city’s countless problems related to space and the increasing divide between how the rich and poor reside in Mumbai, could find remotely doable solutions. Soon enough, there were ideas, suggestions, debunking of myths and explanations flowing thick and fast on how to strive for a better Mumbai.

It’s when one got thinking that the powers who run Mumbai should request such seasoned, balanced minds to put their heads together, and give our dear city a chance to redraft its character and shape — be it for housing, infrastructure, redevelopment or keeping open spaces intact.

We cannot allow Mumbai to fall into the hands of a bunch of heartless folk who are hell-bent on their own designs, and who thrive thanks to powerful men in high places.

Mumbai (and Bombay) was built with a vision and on the back of countless minds who kept the city first; on public funding and donations, and above all, a city that had a heart. It still has one, as Iyer reminded me, and “we have our own culture, we work hard, and we have a soul, contrary to what is portrayed about this city. It is capable of reinventing itself time and again,” he reiterated.

Mumbai could do with more such caretakers and thought-keepers. Salyut!

Now, could we get our city back in shape, please?

The writer is Features Editor of mid-day

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