A City Desolate

I have very vivid dreams and nightmares, and my biggest fear is of some kind of dystopian future where we’re advanced in every way except in our humanity.

Bryce Dallas Howard

One day, I am being caressed by the soft mountain winds, remedied by the oblique Himalayan sunburns, my dry, arid body rejuvenated by the clean pristine waters, the crisp air healing my dark, tar lungs, and absolute organic soothing homegrown food; and today I had grapes that tasted like medicine.

Cities, regardless of their vigor and glamour are irrefutable signs of desolation. Within all the commotion and chaos, it is empty. The birds are silent, the trees are sad, and the last remaining signs of humanity are dying. Plastic tarnishing the exotic individuality of grass and bushes is the new topsoil. The cars are deafening. The never-dying low rumble from the highways and factories has us in a state of constant anxiety.

The city home is an empty shell – leaking damp bedroom walls, raking rusty metal gates, squeaky doors, and squealing windows, the city home is desperate for a real touch.

But who am I to dictate what should and shouldn’t exist? In ‘Beyond Good and Evil‘, Nietzsche criticizes this novice attempt at morality. Perhaps the human condition itself is a curse; life is a sentence and the city homes are prison cells manifested.

Bamboo, wood, and mud are elements of old, prehistoric, and primitive times. The modern-day house muscles are concrete. It stands on iron bones, the veins are steel and plastic is the fabric of its attire. From the Nalakattu in Kerala, Kath Kuni houses of Himachal, and the vernacular architecture of Kashmir, everything has rusted into a monotone cubic structure of bricks, concrete, and steel. Add a balcony (an astute disguise of self-reflection) the modern-day man’s attempt to redesign living spaces has hallowed out the connection into a material, literal, disjoint apartment.

The straight edges, the lines; unnatural. Linearity is a subject of fractals in nature. The universe is a function of the golden rule and multiple factors of weird numbers. The city feels like a derivation, a poor intellectual attempt at deduction.

Crowds, cars, canisters, crude crumbling cradles of cunningness, city cats, the rats, it feels like rhetoric. Almost dystopian, the city is an Orwellian quote.

The grand repertoire of career and opportunity feels redundant. This is not a dignity of privilege. It is a bare, blatant proof of rotten humanity.

Greed manifested as billions of dead animals, insects, fishes, and a billion and a half trees uprooted, molested, burned, buried, mutilated, humiliated – all for a bright, shiny, plastic, steel, glass, concrete, coal, carbon monoxide, electricity – a mall.

Being an experienced metropolitan, it could be a catastrophic failure that I still haven’t gotten used to living in a city. It could also be a blessing. When Delhi leeched off my soul, the Western Ghats healed me.

The novelty of modern-day humanity is a subject of the need, a desire to exist in modern architecture – the apartments and multi-story buildings, the gated societies, and pearly shopping centers. And as novelties go, they fade.

George Carlin calls America “a mall within a mall”, and India is living up to the expectations of catching up with the decaying, dying ideas of Western standards and illusions. “The Great American Dream” is no longer a metaphor. Indian cities are the obvious ugly connotations of such vulgar and supreme desires to have more, earn more, and be more! We are greedy.

Holding onto a brighter, optimistic idea of human sustenance feels like a long-lost legend. I love people though. Once you get to know someone, it epitomizes the wonders of life – a real, true human connection.

I relate. I understand. I know. Despite such disparaging information and knowledge, how are we still as coherently doomed as the Dodo? In a fit to substantiate individual prowess, we failed to notice the enraging disparity in the idea of humanity. Cities are a sign of an eventual tragedy. Complaining about the cold fries ordered on a rainy night at 3 am, I believe the dystopia is already here.

Hate is a strong affirmation, and I would rather deviate from declaring any lineage. I am learning how to let go. The twenty-something Saby would’ve ruined himself a week thinking, manifesting a dark, desolate realization to fellow humans, but now he is chill. Whether we end up in a dystopia or utopia, the final moment shall decide.

Am I hopeful? I don’t know.

Is having ‘hope’ and an idea of a promise delusional? Maybe. Maybe not.

A time will come when we shall see cities for exactly what they are – a sign, a symptom, a disease, a desolation. Perhaps it has already come and gone?

Only a nation of unenlightened half-wits could have taken this beautiful place and turned it into what it is today: a shopping mall. A big fucking shopping mall. That’s all you got here, folks. Mile after mile of mall after mall. Many, many malls. Major malls and mini malls. They put the mini malls in between the major malls, and in between the mini malls they put the mini marts. And in between the mini marts ya got the car lots, gas stations, muffler shops, Laundromats, cheap hotels, fast food joints, strip clubs, and dirty bookstores. America the Beautiful: one big transcontinental, commercial cesspool. And how do the people feel about all this? How do the people feel about living in a coast to coast shopping mall? Well they think it’s JUST FUCKING DANDY. They think it is as cool as can be, because Americans love the mall, that’s where they get to satisfy their two most prominent addictions at the same time: shoppin’ and eatin’. Millions of semi-conscious Americans day after day shuffling through the malls, shopping and eating, especially eating.

George Carlin

In pictures – Aerocity, Mohali.
February 2024.

Nikon z5 | 40 mm
Saby Singh

Prints available.


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