Come and see the life on the streets

| Updated on May 03, 2019

Streets are the arteries that course through Indian cities

Sidewalks, as Canadian-American author Jane Jacobs puts it, are where people come together. “(They) bring people who do not know each other together in an intimate, private social fashion,” she writes. Such street-play is obvious in many of India’s populous cities — from Mumbai, Varanasi and Ahmedabad to Jaisalmer. The idea of a ‘public place’ is fluid in India, unlike the defined European piazzas. So, a city displays the many layers it inhabits on its streets. As the sun rises, city life slowly unfolds — and the start of day can be seen in various forms on the streets. The owner of a commercial unit, for instance, prays publicly, as someone cleans the roads. Sometimes, the town’s topography defines its life, as in Pushkar, where streets run in concentric circles around it. Indian streets are accommodative of animals as well as humans. This is evident in Varanasi, where one has to make space for cows to pass in the city’s maze of lanes.

The public and the private aspects of a place are diffused during festivals and holidays in India. The stretch between Bhadra Fort and Teen Darwaza in Ahmedabad comes alive on Sundays and the variety of activities taking place there gives a peculiar vibrancy to Old Ahmedabad. A street in Girgaon, Maharashtra, on Gudi Padwa witnesses people coming out of their homes and reclaiming the space.

Architect Balkrishna Doshi compared buildings to a living organism; I believe the same can be said of cities. The streets, then, become the arteries that course through them.

Rohit Lahoti is a Mumbai-based photographer and architect

Published on May 03, 2019

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