[Reader-list] reader-list Digest, Vol 57, Issue 55 (on bicycle dreams)

atreyee majumder atreyee.m at gmail.com
Wed Apr 23 17:10:26 IST 2008

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: atreyee majumder <atreyee.m at gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Apr 23, 2008 at 10:51 AM
Subject: Re: reader-list Digest, Vol 57, Issue 55 (on bicycle dreams)
To: reader-list at sarai.net

Dear all,

When I first came to Delhi a few years back, to visit a friend, I remember
that it struck me to be most curious that kids drove their parents' spare
cars to college/shopping malls/pubs etc. Sort of like teenie-bopper
Hollywood movies. This was the beginning of the automobile explosion in the
big cities of India. Kids in the National Law School campus increasingly
came back from summer breaks with car keys in their pockets. Postcolonial
Big Cities which form the crucial nerve-centres in our not-so-networked
parts of the world, as points of contact with the networked worlds, so as to
appropriate whatever comes our way- money, download speeds, BPO jobs, jazz
bars, intellectual stimulation, Iron Maiden, Russell Peters and what have
you. It is naive then to imagine that in our parts of the world jazz bars
and download speeds will remain satisfactory- within cycling distance.

Of course, with the caveat of some fairly self-sufficient microcosms- like
some universities- I know for a fact, cycling lifestyles are common at the
Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore and the Indian Statistical
Institute, Delhi. But I must go back to my primary argument-  that the
euphoria of appropriating one's personal share of the modern pie, is
inevitably  a reality in our parts of the world. The automobile euphoria
being one more manifestation of the same. Where your car is bound to
symbolise not just your tax returns, but also your ability to penetrate the
modern world, a little deeper. That you can stay till the last drink at the
jazz bar, not worrying about having missed the last trip on the metro.

My take would be that euphoria over the automobile is not much different
from the euphoria over one's own portable computer, one's own source of
portable telecommunication,  one's  own  portable music system.  Similarly,
the Nano appeals to the  just-about-income-tax-bracket-person's ticket to
mobility/modernity. Just like affordable air tickets. This is a euphoria
that we probably can't wish away with bicycle daydreams. As we don't live in
Western Europe, where a Jazz Bar is bicycling distance away. And we need our
BPO jobs to pay up laptop instalments.  Like the  power-hungry Reva, our
network fantasies also have considerable hidden costs in terms of jacking up
demands for key, manufacturing industries. Which, in turn, claim land, air,
water, minerals, traditional livelihoods. And we rise up in leftist outrage.
Rarely reflecting that these industries expand to feed our modern hungers.

Not to say that our modern hungers are immoral or anything( I am neither
moral, nor Gandhian).

But, admitting to the very real titillations of modernities sort of rudely
shake me out of bicycle daydreams. Hence, this post.

Apologies for sounding obtuse.


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