Informality integral to Delhi’s identity, nurture it! May 10, 2012
I was delighted to see this video from Philips Livable Cities Initiative profiling New Delhi. Indeed, I agree that one of Delhi’s biggest challenges is to refrain from copying what other cities have done without really thinking it through. Delhi has such a unique identity shaped by its complex and interesting past and added to everyday by the thousands who migrate in and out of this melting pot; indeed, it would be a great pity to dilute its unique character.
I loved the fact that the video highlights one of the aspects I love best about Delhi- its informality. In fact, the piece highlights what I have always believed, that its informal economy is the soul of this city. One has to only look around to see how innovative citizens are about how they earn their livelihood. I blogged about Sarojini Nagar market and Sikanderpur, an urban village as great examples of thriving markets. Messy kitschy is what Delhi loves, while more organized, formal retail often gets miserably low footfalls. Small businesses, street markets, street-side food and public spaces full of noise and life are desirable to Delhi-ites. Clearly, it is upto designers, planners and policy makers to intervene to public spaces conducive to nurture small businesses.
Like anywhere, it is vital for Delhi’s citizens to be proud of their city. They already are! Most recently, we have seen an enormous fillip in the city’s self-image after the success of the Delhi Metro (and Delhi Daredevils, I dare say!). It would certainly be a blessing if experts and government could join hands to, as the video suggests, preserve the city’s heritage and revive its waterways and green spaces to create a cleaner, more livable urban environment.