Where do we breathe

It's the story of an occupation where we have the whole city occupied by vehicles, shops and the noise thereof

CITYWALK

DR. RUMANA MAKHDOOMI

I need a certification immediately!  Has the city of Srinagar been sold?  I dare not imagine that this catastrophe has happened, but looking at the shrinking space that is available to a commoner for a walk or a stroll – I am compelled to think otherwise.
Lal Chowk, the business hub of the city possessed an elegant mix of beauty and activity – quietly lately too.  This well conceived market space would take care of all your needs.  You would walk down from one end to the other, for all you wanted. A mango shake, a bite of ice cream, or a cup of coffee would be an added treat.  That was the time when pavements were for you, footpaths would be there for your benefit and those buses would be long and lovely – restricted to the ‘Addas’ meant exclusively for them!
Now try walking along Residency Road nowadays.  Footpaths have become an exclusive property of the elite shopkeepers.  Huge generators, chairs, tables and sofas along with cots with ‘on sale’ and ‘off season’ stuff are on display on the very same footpaths for the maintenance of which we the tax payers flush our money out.  Some shops have put branded tools on the footpaths to sell shake and ice cream to the customers.  Each shopkeeper has decorated the footpath in front of his shop with coloured tiles – which helps him to put a firmer claim on ‘his portion’ of the footpath. Footpaths aside, the adjoining bit of road is encroached – you can never park your vehicle there.  The shopkeeper will object and traffic police is very strict with commoners – your car will be ‘crane-lifted’.  Is this the space restricted for shopkeeper’s vehicle?  Isn’t this also the road for which a taxpayer pays.   The bakers and the thick stuff they produce inside, has clogged the drains and is producing a good quantity of grease   to penalise   you for trespassing their territory and to charge the air with offensive odour  . The footpaths have been spoiled by the flowing rain and snow from the rooftops of the buildings around Lal Chowk and from the shelters over the entrances to the shops. 
There used to be an elite touch to the road near Polo View.  That breeze and coolness of chinars would refreshen a tired shopper.  But now, where is the space to breathe- in that lane chocked on both sides with vehicles of all models and makes.  Why doesn’t anyone care to make space for those who come to shop there?  Whose cars are parked there?  And for  God’s   sake- why?  Shopkeepers of the area\should be conscious about what vehicles are doing to the beauty of the area and how clean the area would look without those vehicles.  Those elite ones should be able to pay a meagre 10 or 20 Rupees for parking -out of thousands they make from the sale of their goods every day. 
The other end of Lal Chowk is in a greater mess.  While shops have encroached upon footpaths and roads on that side too, locals and outsiders have spread their sheets and installed their stalls everywhere from Ganta Ghar to Jehangir Chowk- creating mess of a   mess . The electronic goods sellers have decorated the footpaths on their sides with their gadgets and  the carpets sellers have kept their rolls neatly piled and spread out  on the footpaths.  Maharaj Bazar, a tiny lane, is made tinier by ‘Majmas’ and ‘Tokris’ – the adjoining space occupied by cars.  What space is left for a shopper to walk on?
The traffic management in Lal Chowk is poor and pathetic which has added to the already existing  chaos.
Lal Chowk is not the only area ‘occupied’, posh areas of the past like Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar and Sanat Nagar have been converted into badly planned ‘commercial pockets’.  Those purely residential areas have lost their peace and beauty by the malls and schools which have come up in their hearts. Nursing homes and schools are an added pain.   There must be some norms and guidelines which need to be followed before such disasters come up within residential colonies.  Who has followed them and who has not, has anybody bothered to check? And for the transgressors, what is the punishment? 
  ‘Karan Nagar’ and ‘Balgarden’ have borne the brunt of being at the junction of Uptown and Downtown, the hospitals and adjoining Batmaloo has stimulated uncontrolled growth of  business centres here..  The upcoming laboratories, eateries and diagnostic centres along with the shops with half their shops on the roadside have chocked the area beyond revival. Who is allowing all this to happen to once serene and   peaceful area.
O’ My love– the Downtown is into the last breaths of its life.  Its lifeline – the Nalamar throttled long time back, now  its bazaars and chowks have not only been occupied but mauled beyond recognition.  Our planners never thought of refurbishing it – but let it diminish, die and decay. Garbage and bunkers are omnipresent drains and nalis are flowing streams of yellow  ,and lanes are crooked and dangerous-we all know that .But Interestingly – the entire Downtown area is without a parking space.  .
God save the land and its people where aerial connectivity in the form of cable car (as around Hari Parbat) becomes a priority – and roads are happily given off to shopkeepers – for them to do the business.

(Feedback at rumanahamid@rediffmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 22 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 23 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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