In its pursuit of “smart cities,” India is becoming a drier, hotter and angrier country
Every day, as I left home and walked along the footpath near my house, battling cars that try to occupy it, I glanced irritatedly at the little mess of leftover rice and god knows what that I shuddered at and jumped over. I was delighted when the WhatsApp group of the local residents’ associations posted photos of the dirty patch I encountered and others like it. The unanimous decision: We will ask residents to stop creating this mess that attracts dogs and crows. Why, I mused, must people make this mess on our already crumbling footpaths?
I got my answer the next week, and it made me feel guilty, ashamed and ignorant. You see, the reason people from my neighbourhood’s last-surviving little houses put the rice out was because they were acting on fading impulses and memories from a gentler and greener time–when nature was a part of daily life and Bengaluru was a city of trees and gardens, big and small. “Bengaluru residents have not just been aware of the biodiversity of their gardens, but have made active efforts to support this biodiversity,” writes Harini Nagendra, a professor at Azim Premji University, in Nature in the City, her evocative exploration of the city’s natural history. “More than half of the residents engaged in practices such as placing a plate of warm rice, often with ghee [clarified butter] added, outside the kitchen to feed crows, while they left water baths for birds in the summer, and sugar and milk for ants and reptiles.” Full Story