After too long of a stretch of city living, holiday month was finally here. En route Simla, flying, via Chandigarh.
I sat at my much-fought-for* window seat, and prepared for take-off. While the flight taxied, I looked beyond the boundaries of the empty runway to the dirty gutter, the slums, the cranes and half-built buildings beyond, all on the fringes of BKC. I thought back to an irritated rhetorical question I asked once, whilst sat stuck in traffic caused by construction: “will this city ever finish being built?”
While taking off and during the first part of the ascent, I looked intently at all I could see of the city. The large slum patches. The “high rise” buildings. The regular buildings, where most of the city’s population lives. I surveyed, and thought about how dirty it all was.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this city intensely. For numerous reasons, the main being the fact that it is home. But even to me, from this perspective, it looked gross. Disgusting.
This kind of grossness and incompleteness isn’t always apparent. It barely features in city-related thoughts whilst living day to day…
We’re often fed pictures and ideas of the ideal version of the city – billboards featuring carefully constructed high-rises, listicles that do the rounds on social media featuring quaint and romanticised little nooks, adverts playing up the existing beauty of the city and photographers and writers commemorating its intricate moments. All within the veins of this giant, life-like organism.
The city is more than the sum of its parts. It’s known to exist beyond its physical components and what literally constitutes it. It goes beyond to extend to the life that exists within it, and the dynamic versions of connections and relationships.
The people within are known for their cultural diversity, yet having the common tendency to get along and thrive. This is a city that’s very commonly described, in various ways, as being “multifaceted”. (One of my favourite terms off late)
In those moments of ascent, with the view of so much sprawled before me, my drifting mind thought about how much like the city I am:
In the constant, continual process of romanticism, with a constant idea of what an ideal version could be.
Despite the vision, continually in the process of “being built”, and oftentimes dwelling in incompleteness and stagnation.
Having a whole network of interconnected emotions and inclinations – sometimes flowing seamlessly together despite stark contrasts, and at other times clashing, leading to a range of intrapersonal conflicts.
All this put together.
By few, by many. Built with time, occasionally sloppily torn down. Sometimes carefully re-constructed.
Intricate on the inside, and externally beautiful, while at the same time, existing amidst complications and dilapidation.
An intensely flawed work of art.
I never realised humans and cities had so much in common.
*fight with the sister, resulting in a little silent treatment. Nothing major 🙂