The latest to fall prey to the rapacious monster of development is the beautiful rose garden opposite the IIT in Delhi. Why can’t the metro remain underground all over the Capital like it does within the VIP district?

The tulip is associated with Holland and the rose with Europe despite the fact that the systematic cultivation of the tulip, the Laalaa in Turkish and the Laleh in Persian, began in Turkey and that of the rose or Gulaab in Persian, Turkish, Urdu and Hindi, began in China. This happens because imperialism not only colonised us, it also colonised and appropriated everything of value that was created by the third world and presented it as its own achievements, the Laalaa and the Gulaab included.

Just as Laalaa Rukh ‘as radiant as a tulip’ is how a beloved is described in Persian even today and a field of flowers is always a Laalaazaar, so also with the Gulaab that has many derivatives like Gulab Chehra and Gulaabrang. Poets have compared the lips of the beloved to rose petals and one cannot imagine a garden that has no roses. The rose, therefore, is truly well ensconced in our world, in our literature and in our psyche.

Let me underline the fact that like so many cultural markers, this association too is not Pan-Indian but more of a north Indian phenomenon, the four southern states have a more vibrant culture of wearing flowers than seen in north India and they have a wider variety of flowers available through the year, including the incredible Ketaki that is almost a rarity in north India.

It is perhaps because of the small window when we get to see flowers blooming in Delhi that the few spaces reserved for flowers generally, and for roses specifically, tend to attract a large number of visitors. Even those not fortunate enough to find the time to visit these few spots still manage to steal a glance when going past the Teen Murti traffic island with its beautiful collection of roses.

A city does not become world class merely because it has more flyovers than California and Los Angeles put together. It does not become modern because it has wide roads and traffic zipping past at furious speeds. A city becomes world class by caring for the differently abled, the pedestrian, the aged and the children. It becomes world-class by creating open spaces and gardens including gardens with hundreds if not thousands of roses. It becomes world class by creating islands of calm and spaces where people can relax and birds can nest and butterflies can flit about and ants can built colonies and earthworms can burrow not be bothered by intrusive noise and the ceaseless clatter of what passes for development.

Look around and you will see that this city, that has been a Capital for a thousand year or more, is rapidly turning into a city that would soon be a glass and steel replica of so many faceless and characterless mega cities cropping up like parasitic mushrooms all over the globe. This is what we are becoming now, poor imitators of the cities built by those against whom we fought for 200 years.

A city that was known for its gardens, and not only the ones created by the British, like the Nicholson Garden, the Edward Park, the Lady Willingdon Park etc but of the hundreds of others that lay scattered all around like the Shahzada Bagh, Gulabi Bagh, Begum ka Bagh, Qudsia Bagh, Shalimar Bagh and Beriwala Bagh etc is now rapidly devouring all open spaces and eating up what remains of the measly green cover that the city is left with.

The latest to fall prey to this rapacious monster that appears before us in the name of development is the beautiful rose garden opposite the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). The Rose Garden was the only decent open space for miles that provided a modicum of non intrusive privacy to young couples, a place in the sun to the old and spaces for brisk walks to the health conscious and all this overlaid with the pleasing colours and fragrance of roses. And now it is gone. And along with this will go wide swaths of the green belt, parts of a forest that provides oxygen for us to breathe. The rose garden has been dug up and the forest is being readied for the guillotine and all this for the onward march of the metro.

Why is it that the metro remains firmly underground as long as it is within the VIP district where the government has its offices and the bureaucrats live? The moment it emerges from the VIP district it destroys everything of value, cutting and slashing gardens and forests and driving through residential localities, intruding into people’s homes and taking away their sleep.

Why can’t the metro remain underground all over Delhi like it does within the VIP district? There is need to seriously question the DMRC argument that they plant 10 trees for each one that they cut. They are cutting 30, 40 or 50 year old trees opposite IIT and planting saplings at Kanjhawla that might begin to replenish the lost oxygen 10 or 20 years down the line, but what about the environmental degradation wrought by the metro now.

The argument of greater cost for tunnelling as opposed to over ground construction has never factored in the environmental cost, the loss of open spaces to the young and old, the lost micro-environments and eco-systems that not only create environmental imbalances locally but also destroy large populations of micro organisms so necessary for the regeneration of the soil and of life itself. Does anybody care? Are the masters of our destinies bothered? I seriously doubt their intentions.

More In: Delhi