Shashi Tharoor marked his presence at the SPACES Fest, speaking on Post – Colonial urbanism in India shining light on the Nehruvian vision of modernity. Beginning with the dominant motive of creating a better India, Tharoor shared the contradictions in the Gandhian and the Nehruvian vision of India. Nehru equated that the soul of India could be in villages but its material body lay in the urban spaces.
The talk traced the reasons for Nehru’s vision of a modern- urban India, rooted in science. Equating modernity to the Russia he saw as a child, his college days with an indispensable scientific temper dominated his social vision. ‘Every leader is a product of their time,’ he added.
Tying the idea of Nehru, to the evolution of urban spaces in India, Tharoor narrated the nuances in the creation of Chandigarh, a city which is one of its kind, designed by the famed architect Le Corbusier structured to represent man and triumph. He quoted Nehru, who said that creation of Chandigarh was considered the biggest project in the history of India which must make one think, unfettered by the nation’s traditions of the past, a vision for its future.
Tharoor classified the urbanisation in India into colonial, post-independence and post- Nehruvian. The metropolitan hubs and the buildings created by the Raj was a result of anxious colonialism. He pointed out that how the grandeur of the Mughal Empire was reduced and why the Rashtrapathi Bhavan is taller than the tallest minaret of the Jama Masjid. Referring to the Nehruvian idea of modernity as a reflection of a socialist idea, he denoted, the current development in the name of smart cities, would attain success only when it is created for people.
The session concluded with a highly energetic interaction with the audience, touching on the topics of ecology and the politics of architecture and development.