Most cities like Baroda are not planned. However much may exist on reams of paper dreamt up of town planning draught boards, the truth of the matter is that the city just unravels its own narrative with bits that squeeze to fit here and there; to accommodate the expanding population from the richest to the poorest, with some dogs, cows, and monkeys thrown in for good measure.
But if I get over my irritation at the higgledy-piggledy randomness, (because military father's child that I am, I adore order and symmetry ), I come to observe other nuances of how each person in their own capacity, contributes in making the complex jig-saw puzzle that the image of the city comes to finally be.
Let us quickly loose the snobbery of belief that "beautiful home and their interiors" are the possibility of the elite alone. In fact the imagination of the elite can often be quite boringly similar in the desire to follow trends to gain social acceptance. But wander through the streets of the middle-class and the lower income bracket housing of a city like Baroda, and discover the amazing personalised tastes and idiosyncrasies that transform drab into magical.
I am also completely enthralled by the architectural designs that dot seemingly nondescript localities, where a turn on a lane can bring you upon an enchanting brick house that evokes Hans Anderson fables, or a gated compound that reveals a line of minuscule row-houses all adorned with paper lanterns at their front door, that appear more in keeping with a charming Victorian novel set in the scenic bliss of an English sea-side resort rather than found off a dusty Baroda lane in Gujarat.
Windows at night are lit up to showcase tiny kitchens and living spaces in apartment blocks, all gleaming with hi-tech gadgets and new inventions to save space. Red ceilings and lime green walls, fancy bling centre lighting and personalised murals on the facades of living rooms, furniture that borders on wacky and flat screen t.v's all create a pastiche that is vibrant, and talks of a new celebration of economy in India that filters down to those with a desire to live life king size. Walking with my head in the clouds would be quite literally how you can describe my nocturnal jaunts, as I trip and stumble over pot holes and strewn debris that are of course the hall mark of my cities streets, in my enthusiasm to look at everything I can see all at once!!!
Come take a walk with me not just down memory lane, but down the lanes that hold the here and the now of our lives. With vehicles making walking almost defunct as a method of travel, we are fast loosing the magic of discovery. Take a walk in your city sometime soon.....and tell me if it isn't an amazing space of discovery!