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  1. Sandhya,

    We create what we are from inside. In ancient India, aesthetics was ingrained in a person beginning with the self. Grooming, gathering & presenting the self, was almost an art. The `me’ had first appeal to the eye, and it went beyond the visual senses into taste, touch, smell & audience. People smelt good, felt good & sounded nice.

    This is evident from India’s heritage comprising music, architecture, ayurveda and what have you. This we translated into tangible creations that, like you said, were poetry to those who perceived them.

    But look at us now – the core personality of an average Indian today is geared towards profitability, social acceptability, materialism and gratification of self. We fail to analyze what is good for us or how much can work for us. So, what we create today is a reflection of what we are; and I’m not surprised that it’s not poetry anymore.

    As for cities, I’m not sure to what extent the damage can be rectified. There is not an inch of space left for any creative input to enter & take root. Taking a page from Singapore, redevelopment of cities maybe the only future alternative to redeem ourselves.

    Rapid depletion of environment has been the first victim of rapid corrosion of cultural values. There is nothing more beautiful than raw nature; it doesn’t have to be sculpted; and it inspires.

    Town planning existed in Mohenjodaro & Harappa, but show me one city today that has a town development plan blueprinted into 20 years hence. Another worrisome feature in India is that the onus & cost of city planning gets thrust on the common man. The common man is poor; hence the city stays dirty & unplanned.

    You spoke about China – poorer than India, more populated than India, no democracy; yet it works for them. Beijing is no.15. What works for China seems to be development-under-compulsion; they have no choice.

    China has a spiritual side too, reflected in their mind & body sciences except that in China, practicing arts of self-discipline is more of compulsion than choice. It is this discipline of the inner self that reflects into what they create & how they project themselves. Neat, compact & visually-appealing.

    In India, are we really forced to do anything? Perhaps it is the laissez-faire that has caused our decline.

    About the other places you mentioned – Paris, Florence, Bali – there is ownership for what doesn’t belong to you. Every person on the street is city-proud; an unlisted tourist guide whose sole aim is make you carry back proud memories of the place he belong to.

    Do you know why I think the CWG opening ceremony was a success? Because we showcased India undiluted, and people couldn’t have enough of it.

    If we can turn a few pages back in time and re-learn the art & science of sculpting our soul; we can re-sculpt India back to its old glory.

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