The city falls short on offering the principal elements that help make the image of a city.
Most outstation professionals who make aapnu Amdavad their temporary home inevitably end up remarking about our city’s decent larger physical infrastructure and the resulting reasonable quality of life. But do they carry back with them any everlasting postcard image of the city?
Alas, the respondents to the query would struggle to veer their answer towards the affirmative.
The reason behind the rather surprising contradiction between the experience and the memory could best be found in the acclaimed 1960 book called Image of the City by Kevin Andrew Lynch (1918-1984), an American urban planner and author.
Following a five-year-long study in three American cities (Boston, Jersey City and Los Angeles), Kevin proposed that there are five basic elements which people use to construct their impression – or ‘mental map’, as he put it – of a city:
Pathways (streets, footpaths, service lanes etc); Edges (boundaries to travel – such as shorelines, riverfronts, buildings etc); Districts (really large and separately identified sections of a city – for example, CG Road); Nodes (intersections, focal points, entry and exit points); and Landmarks.
Does Ahmedabad score over other metro cities of India – never mind the global destinations – in any of the above?
Well, the good news is that the rapidly evolving Sabarmati Riverfront does provide our beloved city a distinct edge over most urban centers. It does promise to become one of the postcard identities of Ahmedabad, especially if the proposed 150m tall Charkha Wheel, a giant observation wheel thrice the size of the London Eye, is erected at the Riverfront site. At $268 million, it would be the costliest of the five observation wheels of the world.
But most part of it is for the future. In the current form, it does not quite spell magic on travel and tourism sites and brochures – and not many outside Ahmedabad (or Gujarat, perhaps) know about it. Maybe because in its present state, it is still not quite, for instance, Mumbai’s Queen Necklace (Marine Drive), which offers everything from the mesmerizing night lights, a soothing early morning feel of a beachside, to everything in between.
There’s, of course, Kankaria Lakefront, an old favourite of visiting families, especially with young children. But it is not too different or better than, say, a Hussain Sagar lake of Hyderabad, the Bada Taalab of Bhopal.
There are no landmarks that can really adorn a high-quality tourism brochure. Even the very significant and venerable Gandhi Ashram is about faith, not really impactful optics. There are no India Gates or Gateways of India, No Buddha statue in Hussain Sagar lake, No Vidhan Soudha (building) or the Bangalore Palace. The Ahmedabad canvas just doesn’t have any remarkable background picture.
The void extends to other spheres too. Ours is a city with almost no instantly identifiable and likeable nodes. We don’t have Mumbai’s CST and Churchgate Stations or anything like the many popular metro stations of New Delhi for daily commuters.
All the city crossroads (chaar-rastas) are a mess of bad urban planning and even worse traffic (and human) sense. For instance, the immensely vital Thaltej Crossroad (above the underbridge) in its current form is not only uninspiring to look at but also a prime invitation for daily mishaps.
And to think of it, nodes are meant to work booth as an easily identifiable place to plan or navigate the further your journey – while also giving you time to take a breath and let the image in. Can you think of any such place in Ahmedabad?
Ahmedabad – in general – does have slightly better and wider main roads than most Indian cities. But do they really stand out for a memorable experience? Especially when the experience is more about the traffic. Where is the eye-popping splendour of a Rajpath in New Delhi, the spectacle of Mumbai’s Bandra-Worli Sea Link, the global glitz and youthful energy of a Brigade Road of a Bengaluru, to name just a couple? CG Road, though a national pioneer of sorts for planning in its initial days and still a bright spot of the city, has seen better days, while SG Road continues to struggle to have a definite character.
Corporate Road at Prahlad Nagar promised to be the business card of the new Ahmedabad. Alas, it has not developed into a district, like, for instance, a Connaught Place or a Nehru Place of New Delhi, Mumbai’s Nariman Point, the Central Business District of Bengaluru, or HITEC City of Hyderabad. Everything in Ahmedabad is still a tiny sprinkle of the new-age amidst the largely small town setting.
There’s nothing exceptional and exclusive for the raw professional MNC energy and slick facilities of a new world business district.
In other words, we can’t really blame a non-Amdavadi if he or she doesn’t have a great mental image of our city, can we?
The idea is not to put down the city that we love so much. The idea is to prod – or perhaps even provoke – the city fathers and the citizens alike to go for that next leap. Ahmedabad is wonderful canvas, with an encouraging initial picture. Let’s join hands to add the missing pixels to it – towards creating a really memorable image of the city.