The book is a superbly etched and finely detailed representation the life of an ‘urban villager’ in a modern satellite town of India. It describes how Delhi, as a city, is growing radially, stretching its way into the rural fringes of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh that border the city to form the national
Through the microcosm of Greater Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, the author draws a portrait of life in a semi-urban town, where billion dollar homes and villages with no sewage system share the same pin code. Some farmers sell their land and try to cope with a new found prosperity; others refuse and break into agitations that make newspaper headlines. A builder destroys a wetland to make a township while the middle class in high rises frets about power and security. A few kilometres away, the Formula One event hosts international celebrities amidst bewildered villagers. Living here is being witness to the contradictions and ironies that occur when India is forced to co-exist with Bharat.
The author frequently draws parallels with similar kinds of urbanisation on the outskirts of other Indian metros. Across the country, the city gobbles up more and more of what was once the countryside-whether it is Sriperumbudur in Chennai, Belapur in Mumbai, Yelahanka on the outskirts of Bengaluru or Rajarhat New Town in Kolkata. No matter where you live in India, the story of this book could be the story you see in your city.
Vandana Vasudevan studied economics at Lady Shri Ram collage and trained in management at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. she has been writing for several publications including The Times of India, Economic Times and a fortnightly column in the business daily Mint.
Six months after living in Greater Noida, a satellite town of Delhi, it was starkly evident to me that I was living in a town in flux—where a new India aggressively intruded into rural India and where apartment dwellers may have a gymnasium and sauna within their society but necessarily have to buy milk from the farm because pasteurised milk in packets is not available everywhere. Fresh, preservative-free vegetables, though, can be bought directly from tenant farmers, who anxiously await eviction orders. Farmer clashes about land hit national headlines, ever so often. Rural landowners make money in a scale they could not ever have imagined and buy more SUVs. The Formula 1 track is opposed by villagers because it will block the road to an old temple. Every day of my life here, I was witnessing a social and cultural friction that had land at its core. It is a life where India is forced to coexist with Bharat.
In this book, through the microcosm of Greater Noida, that is a town in Uttar Pradesh, 25 kilometres from the border of Delhi, I tell you what it is like to live in a semi-urban city of India. It is not only a phenomenon restricted to Delhi but also a change sweeping all our metros where the city gobbles up more and more of what was once the countryside—whether it is Sriperumbudur in Chennai or Panvel in Navi Mumbai, Yelehanka on the outskirts of Bengaluru or Rajarhat in Kolkata. No matter where you live in India, the story of Greater Noida could be the story you see in your city.
In the course of writing this book, I became aware of the tremendous amount of research that is being carried out in leading universities across the world to understand the world's cities and how to make them more sustainable and happier places to live in. I came across daunting but enlightening concepts like 'urban metabolism' and 'urban morphology'. Researchers in the University of Santa Fe, New Mexico, have come up with a mathematical model to make predictions about our cities that will help find solutions to our most pressing problems. Elsewhere in London School of Economics, innovative research is being carried out under the Urban Age project, of which Mumbai was the focus in 2007.
I could have integrated academic concepts to each of the aspects that I focus on in this book—how land is acquired and allocated to build India's new towns and how society is growing in these periurban areas. I have refrained for two reasons. First is the small matter of me not being formally educated in the vast and riveting subject of urban planning. Second, I did not want to add to the huge body of knowledge that already exists in the world on urban planning by repeating what many scholars are saying.
Therefore, I thought I would tell you a story that has not been told. The compelling story of what it means to live as an urban villager in an emerging Indian town, straddling the national capital and one of the poorest states in the country at the same time. It is a developing story. Every time I thought I was done, I would learn of something new coming up in Greater Noida a new project or a fresh farmer agitation or yet another court ruling. Yet, even if things change and land is never an issue again and the town overcomes all its challenges and I do hope both these scenarios come true—it is still a story of the growing-up pangs of an Indian satellite town.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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