Saturday, November 1, 2008


It was heartbreaking to see the cover story on today's 'The Times of India'; especially because only yesterday I spent my morning reading about Ibn Battua's ( & stay in Delhi and his account of the life in the city.

How careless we've become to our past. Maybe India isn't rich and doesn't have money to save its architectural legacy, but this is still unpardonable.


  1. greed can make people blind to everything else around them. this is just disgusting!

  2. i felt the pang too. but, what it made me think/ask is probably contrary, contemptible and a completely diff issue.

    can 'conservation' create feeling for what is normally considered a 'heritage building'? there are some who are sentimental abt the handkerchief their mums used to wipe their noses when they were little. these buildings have had obviously a more momentous past and use, but would one day be dust, with/without human interference. and while i'm more disturbed by commercial indifference, i'm also iffy about mere cosmetic mummification.

    This logic may be full of holes, but aren't spaces/buildings kept alive through inclusion in/ contribution to the urban imagination and/or activity. Shouldn't this define the value of these 'monuments' and not just distant (however glorious) history? Why is Delhi a city of tombs and forts, and on the other extreme malls and parking lots? where's our "cloud gate" (chicago)?

    The amount of money spent on saving it's "architectural legacy" is more than it does on better-planned/ forward-looking spaces or atleast one that serves more 'pressing' purposes. I know we need public toilets more than something that used to be gandhi's ghusalkhana.

  3. I guess what you say Bhavana is also true...what we need is a city to live in and not monuments to look at...

    But somehow i just cant stop looking at the past. Its almost always so easily forgotten...I don't know if thats good or bad, but I find so much joy in it. Not just for the past glory (especially I feel that in this case, the era of Delhi Sultanat was not all that glorious), but even failures or misfortunes...

    Viceroy's house as well as Delhi Residency buildings are still around and preserved because they are a part of our lives, because people live in them. Maybe thats one way of looking at it, maybe another example is Taj which lives because of the revenue it generates, because of the whole tourism industry built around it. And then there are places like Chandani Chowk and Meena Bazaar, where the name remains but most of what was there in the past is gone. Especially Delhi has been destroyed and rebuilt so many times that little remains from a lot of lost eras. No one ever goes around to see Lal Kot...which is much older than almost everything else that we see around.

    Most of Delhi's older monuments were destroyed to make way for newer Delhi (including Tuglaqabad, Shahjehanabad and New Delhi) and in that sense whats happening now may also not be all that wrong. Its after all a new Delhi thats blossoming now...and the older and useless buildings being razed to the ground to make way for a more useful and contemporary Delhi!

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  5. also understand sid, the feeling what we have when we see these old monuments and imagining how in history, they would have served the same purpose as our so called contemporary buildings do, but i wonder why we dont look at these old structures as livable now, and only leave them as just monuments, places to look at and leave them with names on the walls etc, and not places we can maintain and give them life. If we, Indians would have used these structures today, they would definitely have had a better fate rather than just being brought down to ground, or just being left as deserted monuments waiting for some Archeological Department to name them as heritage...

  6. Maybe u r right has really worked well for so many hawelis and palaces in Rajasthan because they are now heritage hotels etc. But sometimes such things also takes a monument away from common many would go and see a Lake Palace in Udaipur with all the rich guests looking at them with distaste. Or how many would be allowed to take a walk around Rashtrapati Bhawan now.

    But I also have no clue to the best way to conserve a building. Some countries (Like Forbidden Palace in China) spend Millions to make sure that it looks exactly how it looked 1000 years back, while some try and maintain the buildings as they are today trying to keep the original brickwork etc in place. You would know so much more about this, being an architect.

  7. or maybe...just to outrage everyone...we might allow some of these buildings to die (or assist in some cases). If i'm sounding cold and ruthless, it's not because i didn't feel my hairs stand when i saw the details on the qutub minar or the haveli's in the Old City. it's just that why shouldn't most structures be allowed to 'cease to be'. Like the buddhist mandalas, carried away by the wind. Most of these old structures are empty shells or fancy hotels!


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