R. Benedito Ferrão to present a paper entitled ‘A Garden Overgrown: Panjim’s Garcia da Orta Park and the Remaking of Eco-Cultural Legacies’

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R. Benedito Ferrão will present a paper titled ‘A Garden Overgrown: Panjim’s Garcia da Orta Park and the Remaking of Eco-Cultural Legacies’ at the conference on Preserving Transcultural Heritage: Your Way or My Way, to be held at the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, from 5-8 July, 2017.

 

Ferrão’s paper will dwell on Garcia da Orta’s text Colóquios dos Simples e Drogas e Cousas Medicinias da Índia (1563) which catalogues regional plant-life and da Orta’s legacy in contemporary Goa. Despite da Orta’s life’s work, his Catholicism appears to be an issue for the State. In seeking to orchestrate other legacies for Goa, local governmental machinations have been imbued with India’s right-wing politics in the quest for a Hindu historical consciousness for the once Portuguese region. For example, in 2012 the State sought to situate an architectural monument at this park to commemorate the service of seventeenth century Saraswat Brahmin physicians who had been involved in compiling another botanical text – the Hortus Malabaricus (1678-1693). Whether these botanists may have actually been Goan seems irrelevant, for their caste lineages evoke those of Goa’s contemporary political elite, signaling the Brahmanical Hindu hegemony of the Indian nation-state.

 

Can Upper Castes fight Brahmanism?

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 By AMITA KANEKAR

 

fistWhile in Panjim’s Campal area the other day, I passed the Luis Francisco Gomes Garden. Now this old public park is a pleasant place, partly for its setting under shady rain trees planted around a hundred years ago, but also for its friendly design of low walls, plentiful seats, and bandstand. Campal was an elite residential locality at one time, whose residents probably were not very welcoming of ‘commoners’, but the garden design certainly was. The low broad walls are especially notable, inviting one to sit or even nap on them, or easily hop over them into the garden without bothering to locate the (many) gates.

 

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Car-Free City!

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

Indisciplined parking and a substantial increase in the numbers and sizes of cars have resulted in the choking of streets in most Goan cities. The result of which is that there is hardly any room for pedestrians. In Panjim, pedestrians have been further strained by the new plan for one-way vehicular movement, which has led to an increase in vehicular speeds, making it dangerous for pedestrians to cross roads. In ideal cities the pedestrians are supposed to rule the road, but in our cities they are forced to risk life and limb every time they step on the street.

 

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“What is the City but the People?”

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

The quote above from the Shakespearean tragedy Coriolanus aptly sums the problem in envisioning the future of Panjim today. While hectic activity is afloat to garner ‘opinions’ of what needs to be done to make the capital a Smart City, one wonders if we have forgotten the meaning of ‘smart’ today, or for that matter what is meant by a ‘city’ itself.

 

The biggest problem of the ‘smart city movement,’ is that the promoters of such an approach tend to repackage the city in a generic global form without understanding the historical significance of the existing city (both the form and the people). The Smart City concept largely harps on using digital technologies to supposedly improve the quality and the performance of urban services. The issue is really which services? They normally mean roads, flyovers, parking, digital communication, etc, while what we in Panjim actually need are services like mass housing, wider pavements, barrier-free designs, shaded pedestrian pathways, reliable public transportation, and so forth.

 

Speaking at the event of a high level meeting on smart cities, organized by the European Union in Brussels in September 2014, architect and professor Rem Koolhas pointed that in the projection of the smart city concept, values of liberty, equality, and fraternity have been replaced by comfort, security, and sustainability. These values that the Smart City movement promotes are clearly of contemporary upwardly mobile and elite groups today. Reinforcing these values will have serious consequences for the poor who do not have access to ‘smart’ resources. As I have reflected in earlier columns, Goa is already facing the onslaught of the demands of elite groups that use Goa as a pleasure periphery and a getaway from the problems of India. It should not be that rather than addressing the livelihood issues of locals, the Smart City concept with its pro-elite values becomes just one more vehicle for appropriation of the city from the locals. In her article Is India’s 100 smart cities project a recipe for social apartheid? (The Guardian, 7 May 2015), Shruti Ravindran highlighted similar concerns. Ravindran questions whether the emergence of hi-tech prototype cities in India will override local laws and use surveillance to “keep out” the poor. One of the first designated smart cities in India is the Gujarat International Financial Tec-city (GIFT), in Gandhinagar. Ravindran notes that the beating heart of GIFT is its “command and control centre”, which keeps traffic moving smoothly and monitors every building through a network of CCTVs. She observes that in the country where more than 300 million people live without electricity, and twice as many don’t have access to toilets, GIFT city’s towers are like hyperthrophic castles in the sky.

 

The entrepreneurs of digital technologies have made the city their domain especially by referring these designated cities as ‘smart.’Often unnoticed is the fact that the metaphor of ‘smart’ in the concept of the smart city evokes the smart phone as a comparison for the development of the city. Such an approach is problematic, for it renders the city as a commodity, and a ‘generational’ one at that. This is how one thinks of technological developments, where preference is given to new generations of phones and computers, and the trashing of older generations.Rather than working with something, the existing object is rendered obsolete even before its time in favour of something shinier and newer.Following this logic, just because Panjim is designated as ‘smart’, are the rest of the cities in Goa condemned to being stupid?!

 

What is the need of the hour is the concept of ‘good city’. The good city is the ultimate memorial of our struggles and glories: where the pride of the past is set on display (Kostof:1991, p.16). The pride of Panjim as in other cities of Goa lies in the architecture of the city: in terms of the scale, the extrovert forms of the buildings, their unique architectural styles, and the sheltered spaces for pedestrians. We therefore must show extreme sensitivity in managing these assets and initiating pro-public and egalitarian infrastructural development. The city of cannot be designated as smart global city merely to push newer developments that do not pay respect to the historical context. Instead what we need is to build on Panjim’s past to make it even more open, accessible and friendly to its people.

 

(First published in The Goan Everyday, dt: 8 November, 2015)

‘CASI-NO’: Graffiti as Public Art

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

The word “CASI-NO” is painted on a wall next to the Panjim-Betim ferry bus-stop in the capital. This is not the only location where the graffiti exists. The choice of the ferry wall in the city seems to be an excellent location for the purpose of any protest art. But considering the context, it is surprising that this stenciled piece of art continues to sit right under the nose of the giant casinos which it is opposing. This piece of graffiti is an example of public art and more such works are needed to reclaim the public space from the unabashed domination and bombardment of consumerist commercial hoardings and signage.

 

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What Government Demolishes Homes in the Pouring Rain?

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

What kind of government demolishes homes in the pouring rain? A government that is confident that the chattering classes will not be bothered. It is not only the Parrikar government that is to be condemned for an attack on the very lives of people, especially the aged, ill, and children among them, whose houses were recently bulldozed in Baina, Vasco, during the downpours of July. One child in Baina was 6 days old, according to a newspaper report, just home for the first time from the Chicalim nursing home, when his house was demolished. Now his mother, weak after a tough delivery, is ill and cannot care for the baby who huddles in his grandmother’s arms under a tarpaulin sheet.

 

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