Thoughts On Perfection And the Making of a City

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Recent rains in Delhi have brought the kadamba tree in full blossom. This tree is one of the trees depicted in the carvings of the Ajanta Caves. An apsara is shown holding on the branch of the kadamba tree in full blossom. As many of you may already know that an apsara is considered an ideal of beauty, a perfect woman. She is holding on to the perfect tree. The tree is perfect for its beauty. It always grows erect. The branches are perfectly parallel to the ground and grow in perfect cemetery around the stem. The smaller branches too grow symmetrically to the main branch and perfectly symmetrical to each other. The leaves that grow on these branches are perfectly symmetrical even the veins on the leaves are equidistant and parallel to each other. The tree thus casts a perfectly circular shadow on a warm sunny day.

Then it rained in Delhi. It was humid the clouds were still there, the conditions were just right, and then this tree flowered. The flowers grow under the belly of the leaves always at the end of the small branches and they all blossomed simultaneously, at once. The hypothalamus is a perfect sphere and mounted on these are tiny golden rays of flowers. When I stood under the tree and looked up, the flowers glowed like a million suns and the canopy was a perfect umbrella. Then, I truly understood, why this tree is considered to be the perfect tree, an ideal among trees…for its perfect symmetry and structural beauty. It was stunning.

Then the inevitable happened. Within 48 hours, the flowers wilted and fell to the ground and the new ones that replaced them were just that, replacement. This stunning beauty lasted for only two days. Does that mean that the tree is any less perfect? Or that the ‘ideal’ type of a tree should be abandoned or redefined?

 Should I then give up on perfection at all as it cannot be achieved or if I did achieve, it is short lived? Why bother to aspire to create and live in a perfect city of Delhi? Since it can never be achieved or if it did, it would never last?

The answer is what else is there? The image of a perfect city gives our lives a meaning, something to aspire for and keeps us in action. With out that we will have nothing to look forward to. We would be resigned and cynical. The ideal image of a powerful and perfect Delhi perhaps gives us hope and future to live into….

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About 

Environmental anthropologist by training, been in the field for over 20 years. I am mainly concerned with the infrastructure and technology project impacts on people communities and their physical environment. Their adaptation and mitigation strategies, interests me, now especially in the context of climate change and CDM.

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