ONE OF my friends who lives in Delhi was on a visit to Bhopal recently. Being used to Delhi’s long distances, traffic, heat and dust, he was greatly impressed by the compact size, manageable traffic and greenery of Bhopal. Above all it was the greenery that impressed him.
The lakes, the verdant hills, the clear air washed by the recent rain and the mild climate (compared to Delhi) all produced a cumulative impact, which made him an enthusiastic admirer of our City.
Many first-time visitors to Bhopal react in the same way, for there is no doubt that Bhopal is a beautiful City. It is a City blessed by nature and embellished by the works of man. But I sometimes wonder if politicians and bureaucrats will let us keep it that way.
Close to my house is a large park. A little stream flows through one corner of it. For most of the year it is just a little channel nearly hidden away in the shrubbery and without a drop of water. But during the rainy season it comes to life.
Whenever there is a heavy shower this little stream becomes a foaming cataract, cascading over the rocks in wild abandon. For me there is nothing more pleasant during this part of the year than to stand by the side of this brook and watch the water raging in the little channel. The sound of the water is to me like music—a music that is heard all too seldom.
But I am worried. If the authorities came to know of this stream they would encase it in cement. They would build masonry parapets along the channel. It would then cease to be a stream and become a storm water drain with PWD written all over it. Two other streams in this very park have already met the same fate, how long will this little stream escape it.
There are many people who believe everything needs to be ‘beautified’ by being asphalted, cemented, built over, tamed and traumatised—nothing that nature made is good enough.
A classic example of this tendency is the boundary wall of JP hospital. Before the present wall was built there was a wrought-iron railing with masonry posts, which served the purpose of a fence quite adequately.
A year ago that fence was replaced with a boundary wall with scalloped arches—a trademark fence, which is also found along large portions of the lower lake.
Obviously there is someone who thinks these arches are beautiful. Actually they are ugly; heavy, stodgy and completely without charm. Compare them with the beautiful cusped arches in Gauhar Mahal and you will see what I mean.
Another example will be found in the forecourt of Bharat Bhavan. This building is an architectural marvel. It merges quietly with the surrounding landscape without any obtrusive vertical structures to detract from the flowing horizontal contours of the coastline.
Now in the forecourt lamp posts have sprung up at every 10 yards like a rash of mushrooms and the entire area is awash in the ugly glare of neon. Another example of clumsy attempts to beautify something already beautiful.
Mercifully, attempts to build a large building for the Boat Club on the lakefront were given up a couple of years ago. It would have an eyesore as well as a disaster for the fragile ecology of the lake. Unfortunately the same good sense did not prevail in the case of the Lake Princess.
Putting a large, mechanised boat on a relatively small lake is a sure recipe for ecological disaster and reflects the same philistine mindset as the scalloped arches.
Anyone who wants to enjoy the serene beauty of the lake should hire a row boat and paddle out to some secluded nook. Noisy speed boats and loud music should be absolutely banned.
Intelligent urban planning and the bounty of nature has made Bhopal a beautiful City. Let us always keep the aesthetic aspect in mind while building and keep our City beautiful.