Housing the Horror
Turning agrarian land into construction sites must raise the alarm bells. We are fast losing our productive and open spaces to urban sprawl.
Imagine 10-15 years down the line. We are travelling from Panthachowk to Islamabad, squeezed roads, back to back cars, dense dwellings on either side of the road, hardly a tree visible, ugly structures like shopping malls looming after every 10 meters. What would it look like. Can there be more horror than this in anything that we visualise would happen to our Kashmir in nexr decade or two.
What really pummels my consciousness is this mindless and continuous construction of modern houses. Different people might interpret it differently; like increase in population, effects of urbanization, leap towards a higher phase of development, imitation, and a sense of modernism. The urbanization is never a un-contested process; neglected, dehumanized and those living at the margins of social compact are also its undisputed contribution.
Imperialism has different forms and different shades. One can recognize this modern house construction as one of it. House construction and proliferation of modern gadgets has mauled our cultural appearanc. Cultural and political spaces are being coercively eroded by this imperialistic diffusion.Thus one can conclude this construction as a deliberate attempt and could be classified as a kind of cultural problem. In the words of Edward Said, “Colonization takes place through symbolic forms of settlement through the forced implanting of information ideas and images rather than the physical being”. Lush green fields are diminished; colonial projects are boosted to alienate natives from the sense of belonging and robbed of their homeland Despite all the hard realities, common sense fails to understand why we waste tonns of energy and resources in this senseless activity. Perhaps one explanation that satisfies my curiosity is that every society tries to aspire and achieve a value system. Building modern houses is perhaps the top priority of valleyities. One has to be very reflective while pondering over this grave apprehension particularly, when the entirety of the process seems to be nothing but natural and apparent effect of urbanization.
Building houses is not merely a construction process but perhaps more than that. Housing pattern is always defined as the characteristic feature of a culture, so imitating other cultures is jeopardizing our heritage. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architecture . One might wonder about modern Kashmiri houses - what is Kashmiri about them.
In majority of the cultures, house is something that provides shelter and protects family from vagaries of both society and nature. In Kashmir it has attained greater significance in terms Housing the Horrorof flaunting ones status. It is very detrimental to settle down marriages, based on the criteria of possessing big and well furnished houses .
A modern house means entire structural and functional alteration in living style, individual behavior, family patterns and kinship system. Fortified walls, increased reliance on technological appliances, sophisticated drawing rooms, well furnished and stylish bedrooms, proficient bathrooms, American latches, Iranian carpets, Swiss aquarium, Italian tiles, German taps. In short, such modification doesn’t make me Kashmiri but someone nourished and programmed, which suits tastes and temperaments of imperialistic powers.
Question to be answered is why this race for modern house construction has picked up momentum over the last few decades. And why Kashmiri brains are being occupied, why dreams and desires are molded such that they get accomplished with modern houses. One reason is perhaps, it has turned out to be a powerful movement pertaining to elites and happily imitated by growing middle class. Those living at the bottom of the social hierarchy are being further treaded by newer trends of modern house construction. We conceive our life style is traditional and modernity is the way ahead. But traditional never mean backward. Backwardness is a subject of higher relativism.
What is modern today will turn traditional tomorrow.
The problems gets worsened because we construct, two-three story houses, good number of rooms remain unutilized, just for beautification of our houses we hold them important. Also, one has to be conscious of the fact that the house construction is an unfinished project. Though, it provides employment to different categories of people like mason, carpenter; marble, cement and boulder provider but that is temporary. Once a house gets complet, construction site is nothing but a place of comfort for few individuals.
Basarat Hassan is a Research Scholar at JNU School of Social Sciences. Fedback at basarathassan@ gmail.com
Lastupdate on : Sat, 6 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 6 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 7 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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