On the Banks of Sabarmati Where Gandhi Once Lived

Standing on the bridge over river Sabarmati in Ahmedabad today gives a completely different feeling than what Gandhi would have felt while living in his Ashram during those days. The river is being tamed by the faithful guards of capital. A seasonal river has been made into a perennial one through diversion of water from Narmada. Why not, a beautiful river bank will always get more buyers, better real estate developers, and in effect an additional space for odyssey of market. As construction continues with the riverbed being transformed into a gigantic concrete slab, one could hardly see any water in the river as the two sides of it resemble an upcoming giant concrete demon that would gobble up the wild, free and liberated of a river. Yes, it symbolises what capital, in its insatiable frenzy of transforming every possible space into a commodity, can do.

But why should one be perturbed by it? There is hardly any resistance to what is being done. And one day one would jump in ecstasy standing on the banks looking at the reflection of huge billboards in water of Sabarmati inviting us to be drenched in the frenzy of market. We would narrate to everybody how beautiful the city of Ahmedabad has become, willfully ignorant of the deep seated religious polarisation in terms of spaces in the city or unaware of ghettoisation of the city along class lines.

After all, the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corporation is claiming to usher in a new phase in the life of the city. It says that “The riverfront project creates intrinsic value for all residents of Ahmedabad by making the banks of the Sabarmati free and accessible to the public. The river banks will evolve continually, adapting to the diverse interests of a rapidly transforming city”. Think for yourself, how lost we are in the frenzy of market, self absorbed, self-besotted, forgetting what is actually happening in the name of ‘public access’ and ‘public space’.

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