This poem Contested Narrartives was written in September 2022, after the recent floods in Bengaluru. I am grateful to the conversations with Malini Ranganath, Bhargavi Rao, Leo Saldhana , Archana, Hasiru dala and Raghavendra, Action Aid. This article is part of a series ‘As the drain goes’, a joint project by Pinky Chandran, Nalini Shekar, and Citizen Matters, and is supported by the Bengaluru Sustainability Forum (BSF).

Contested Narratives

The city is full of contradictions

Fractured, complicated

Fragmented, fissured

But at it’s competitive best

Aspirations, of a world class city

With little care, 

Of residual experiences

And contested terrains

It’s the possibilities

Of geographical imaginations

That leave no footprints

Wreckage be damned

The cracks, can be ignored

And differences brushed aside

It’s the challenge of overcoming

And circumventing limitations

That drive a world class city

The shiny facade, 

Manicured lawns, 

And the brutal beauty

Of visual aesthetics

That bring in the brand value

The concrete and glass facades

Symbolic of prestige, power and privilege

Oh, what about the slums

An eyesore they say

Worry not,

For the bulldozers will find a way

To get rid of the pitiful environs

Oh, what about the lakes

That makes the activist see red,

Worry not,

For we have perfected the art of 

Forgotten maps,

And skillful orchestrations

Oh, but what about the trees

Worry not,

For we know how to transport them

To the outskirts in the name of tree transplantation 

We need roads and elevated corridors

To announce that we have arrived

Look at the city lights

A burning imagery

Of all those shiny and new 

Mortality be crucified

It’s the aspirations of a world class city

That makes everything count

Stop perpetuating fear

Of doomsday predictions

And all the negative emotions

Look at the multicoloured luminescence

Of street lights and the shops,

Fireflies, don’t do justice

For a city that delights

In material pursuits

The grass and fields 

Are for farm houses

The clubhouse and swimming pools

Are testimony for our present endeavours

Bask in the wildest imaginations

Of the new city

Unknown to the drab and dirty

Leave the green pastures by

Let’s import  trees that can adorn the city,

Water retention be damned 

Blurring the yesterday in today

Challenging the everyday

Filtering the hue, 

With glass tinted lens

For a view of the world class city.

– Pinky Chandran