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Monday, July 19, 2010

Where would you live?

If you had the money to indulge your every whim, where in India would you like to build a house with the purpose of living in it most of the time?

I like to think of such things in my leisure time: it’s one way of making fantasies come true, at least in the mind.

As I have said before, I hate big cities: so I start by ruling them all out. Rural India, on the other hand, is (still, alas) far too backward to think of settling down permanently there, no matter which state you have in mind. Quick weekend getaways, maybe, living there, no.

So – for me, at least – it quickly boils down to some small town or the other. But there are thousands, and it’s hard to pick from them. There are problems with most towns I know, too: in one place there are daily power cuts that last forever, in another there is an acute water shortage in the summer months. Some are too cold, and some too hot. Some are plagued by militant insurgency: not my cup of tea. Some are getting too noisy and polluted for comfort: my Durgapur is definitely one of them, besides lacking in the most basic amenities that a man of taste looks for, such as parks and museums and libraries and art galleries and book shops and health clubs and green walks and a lot of nice places to go visiting within a few hours’ driving distance (as you could, for instance, if you lived in Shimla). And I should want neighbours who are either friendly or of the harmless, non-interfering sort.

Mussoorie, Chandigarh, Ranikhet, Udaipur, Shillong, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Vishakhapatnam … or some place deep down south, which I haven’t explored?

Or have things come to such a pass that no town in India is anything to write home about any more? 

20 comments:

Arijit said...

Sir,
I would prefer to stay at Santiniketan.
Take Care, All the BEST.

Mayuri said...

Sir,

I love big cities and all that they have to offer, so if I had the money to indulge, I would spend it on a large family house in the city -- a city that has a diverse cultural milieu, an active arts and theatre scene, exciting food and dining options, good schools and colleges, a thriving business district and residential areas which are quieter, greener and safer. Weekend getaway destinations in close proximity would also be much appreciated. But no hilly terrains, please.

So, I think I would have to pick from one of the 4 metros or Bangalore and Hyderabad. Now, while I have lived in Calcutta and visited Delhi and Chennai, I have not been to any of the other cities and therefore, cannot make a definite final choice.
But at first glance, I think I would strike Hyderabad and Chennai off my list because I dont speak the native languages. Bangalore too has a bit of the language problem and some of my friends tell me that the city today is still too young and too wanna-be, in spirit. I think Ill add it to my May-be list.
As for Calcutta, I would love to come back to the city when I am much older, with a lot less interest in the outside world. I would come back and live in my present-day home and it would be quite perfect, I think. But for now, probably not.
That leaves me with Delhi and Bombay. But I dont have enough experience at either cities to make a final decision.

~Mayuri

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I love Chennai way too much in spite of all its flaws and for me, no place will ever shine more. I have lived in big cities for most of my life and didn't adjust well to small town life that well. There is something about the traffic sounds, all the concrete, the big roads and this incredible pulse that Chennai has that just gets to me. Bangalore is another favourite, it is like a second home. I haven't been to Mumbai or Calcutta so I can't speak about those places but as of now, I would pick Chennai or Bangalore or Delhi. If at any point of time I were to pick some place smaller, then it would have to be Coimbatore (although it is a city, it just cannot be compared to the four metros or Bangalore or Hyderabad. The pace of life is leisurely, the people are very friendly and courteous, there is lovely weather all year around and the surrounding villages and hamlets are a haven of greenery. Not to mention its proximity to the Nilgiris. It is a flourishing town that thrives on its mills and textile industries. It has wonderful schools and colleges and from what I have seen, Coimbatoreans love the placid life and are very cultured) or maybe Cunnoor or Coorg. Both are extremely nice places and I am especially fond of Cunnoor. Karnataka in general has a wealth of wonderful places where one can expect to find something of real value avoiding the big cities. Not big on art and theater perhaps, but there are plenty of places that have rich heritage and the Malnad region just rocks (if you will excuse the term Sir)! Chickmaglur, Shimoga, Mercara, Gulbarga, Coorg, Belgaum....all places that have tempted me at various times though I always circle back to Chennai :)

Regards,
Vaishnavi

Nishant Kamath said...

Dear Sir,

This is one thing I've already thought about. I intend to retire well before the official retirement age (perhaps at around fifty or maybe a few years before that). Hopefully I'll have a decent sum of money in my account. I'll go to one of the hill stations (a small town on one of the trek-routes in the Himalayas), donate some money to a school or maybe start a library, which will benefit everyone and will help me get in good terms with the locals. Then I'll have a hostel built for trekkers. That way I'll meet people from all over the world, share stories, will get to live in a small place far from all the noise and pollution, with nice people and hopefully (if I am up to it) teach children. I would hope that we have internet though. At the moment this is the best plan I can think of for myself.

Sincerely
Nishant.

P.S. This plan probably doesn't take into account the fact that I have the money to indulge my every whim. But then these were my plans anyway.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks, all.

Vaishnavi and Mayuri, to each his own. Arijit, you didn't tell me anything about Shantiniketan's present appeal. Nishant, I wish I could live long enough (and still stay fit enough) to give you company when your dream comes true. A tip: try earning in dollars and saving up in gold - that will speed up the process!

I should have thought a lot of readers would want to tell me about their preferences. Wrong again...

Nishant Kamath said...

Dear Sir,

I had the Dollars in mind but not the gold. So thanks for the tip. It was of course 'Master-ji', at Maneybhanjyang, meeting whom I made up my plans. I hope it does materialize and that you do give me company.

Sincerely
Nishant.

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

Though I have visited quite a few places in India, I have actually lived only in three cities. They are Calcutta, Sodepur (in 24 Parganas), Durgapur and New Delhi. While I have issues with all these places, looking back now I can say out of these three, I will prefer Durgapur (during 1987-1994 period) NOW. I didn’t however enjoy Durgapur much when I lived there – reason being I was too young to appreciate beautiful trees, less noise and organised systems in the steel township. However, now I realise how Durgapur was that time.

In those days, I used to think I will live in some hill stations such as Darjeeling, Shimla or Nainital until I realised that stinking ponies throng the city centers in these places. I even gave a thought to Puri but then the thought of the beach post sundown put me off.

Now I have realised (I realised this much before I came to NZ) that none of the cities I mentioned actually progressed much beyond the usual shopping malls and cinema theatres. The pollution have increased (though Delhi and Calcutta have introduced better buses and cabs running on pollution free fuel. Also these cities have metro rail), the parks and reserves have become worse (New Delhi used to have great Parks until most of them became unsafe), there has been no major development to have better libraries, museums or art galleries (the Indian Museum in Calcutta looked like a haunted mansion from inside. Even the white paint outside does not make it look attractive) and whatever natural beauty these cities had are now stories of past (I am not sure if anyone from Kolkata have visited the “dark Adi Ganga”. I hear at some point they thought they will run European type gondolas on it until dead animals started floating around). So none of the cities that I have lived in is actually too attractive any longer.

As far as the other cities are concerned, they are no better either. I have heard good things about Ahmadabad, Chandigarh but to be honest I did not like them much either.

What to do?

I have compromised and have sort of decided wherever my family is I will start loving that place. So for me at the end of the day it is a home more than the city in India. If me and my loved ones are in Calcutta together and if we earn enough to eat well, read well etc then I will try and be happier. I will try and ignore the frustrations and hope “changes” will only be for better. (While I write this, the thought of travelling on the Calcutta Minibus still haunt me but when I think that my father has to do that, i feel may be I can give him company!)

Regards

Tanmoy

Arijit said...

Sir,
Santiniketan is a place of attraction to me because Rabindranath wrote many of his literary classics here, and his house is a place of historical importance.That's the sole reason nothing else.
I don't want to hanker behind gold or dollars all I need is a simple life I'll be entirely satisfied only then.I want to do something for the poor.....I don't know why?
But I think that's my work.(NOT TO SAVE TAX)
Whatever little I will do it will give me enough pleasure.
"HAPPY the man whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground...."
-AlexanderPope
Take care.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Ha ha, Arijit, be careful with quoting people you don't know much about. This fellow Pope, who praised the humble peasant so highly, himself spent all his life in high-society London!

... and I happen to visit Shantiniketan every now and then: its grand history certainly does not compensate for the crowded yet rustic hole it has become. Not a place I'd like to live in for long. Memories of lost glory alone don't make for a good lifestyle!
Sir

Arijit said...

Sir,
Hmmn....Let me think.....Will you please state some important reasons to keep in mind while choosing a good lifestyle.I might have been wrong in quoting but I want to lead a simple lifestyle. I don't want too much money, that's all.OK, here should I quote Swami Vivekananda?Let me try.
"Desire is never satisfied with the enjoyment of desire it only increases the more as fire when ghee is poured upon it."Please note : Fools also have no desire.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

But I listed a lot of things that I would like, Arijit!

And Tanmoy, I sympathize with you entirely, but that is neither here nor there...

Shilpi said...

If I may I'll put in some of my thoughts.

To talk of real places:
I'd visited Gangtok when I was 10 (in 1985), and I loved it so much that I told anyone who cared to listen (even a decade later) that I would live in Gangtok. I hadn't liked Darjeeling (visited at the same time). It was already overcrowded and filthy. But when I visited Gangtok in 1999 - God - I didn't even recognise the place. It had become crowded, dirty and polluted before its time. And it was so hot! I did find some nice places though while out on my solitary walks in the early morning...but I decided then that I wouldn't stay there.

Then there was Shillong I visited once (in 1998). I didn't like the main centre of the town but there were some of these odd hills and secluded forests and they was something desirable and lovely about them. I spent some time near (and in) a waterfall and that was dreamy. Can't say that I would live there.

I've not visited Shimla or Nainital, and Mussourie doesn't count because I spent two hours there stuck in one place in the middle of the town and it was a hot day....

People tell me that Lonaval is a beautiful place. Going by the pictures - it does look misty and very green but the hills look somewhat stunted...

I like the cold and can take the cold with spirit for the most part (I'm not planning to 'climb' any mountains). I love the sea but the seaside places get hot and give me a headache after awhile. And needless to say - I hate cities. I hate them without a thought and with many thoughts.

I can't think of a real town/place but I'd take the mountains somewhere.

It might get cold but if one has all the money then one can be warm inside (and have a nice fire going!) after a wonderful walk and can make sure that the water pipes don't freeze, and that the 'place' itself has no power cuts and enough water.

And if one has all the money to indulge in every whim (as you put it) that would be fantastic, and one could then 'make' the town the way one wished. Art galleries, book shops, music shops, coffee shops, libraries, maybe even 'a' museum (why not go whole hog when one is dreaming), indoor swimming pools, maybe an outdoor natural pool for summer (if that's possible), a theatre for plays, good music concerts, and movies, a game centre (for playing real games like badminton, tennis, squash and basketball and the like), something of a cultural centre where one can learn languages, music, art, and craft, and such things, and some nice restaurants even which don't sell horribly overpriced food...a spanking clean and safe town, that's kept that way, near mountain trails and hiking trails and waterfalls and lush forests. Maybe one can have a nice rock and water garden and a bit of a forest for one's backyard, and maybe have one's best friend/s and nice and friendly people as neighbours?....ah.

Anirvan Choudhury said...

Respected Sir,

Your post is about one of the most diffcult choice in one's lifetime. And with the kind of considerations it makes all the more difficult. I have lived both in Udaipur and Bhubaneswar and visited the rest. None of those places provide any where near ideal living conditions all throughout the year.

My personal favourite is Kodaikanal - if I get a chance. It is green, still clean with ambient weather all round the year having a moderately good library, art gallery, astronomical observatory, decent market and provision stores, sufficient water source and there is easy access to important places within a reasonable amount of time.

The flip sides are living cost and growing stress of tourism. If this place still remain pristine, or at least decent, for another decade or so, it could be a serious contender for a favourite retirement retreat.

At this point I would request to kindly judge the suggested options including your own and rank them in order of priority for all of us.

sincere regards,

Anirvan

Pritam said...

I am a fan of big cities. They have their own set of disadvantages like pollution,snarling traffic and many more. But they have a much bigger set of advantages to offer in terms of career opportunities, dining options, exposure, malls, multiplexes, transport facilities, clubs, libraries, theater scene etc. I have been to all the big cities of the country - Delhi, Chennai, Calcutta, Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai. I lived in Calcutta for four years, Chennai for one year, currently living in Mumbai for the last one year, have been to Delhi and Bangalore many times and is a frequent visitor of Pune. From my experience of all theses cities currently my options will boil down to Pune and Mumbai. Both these cities have a vibrant city life with all the facilities and amenities I have mentioned above. Both are not only closer to Goa which is one of my favorite holiday destination but also in close proximity to hill stations like Khandala,Lonavla,Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani which can be your weekend getaway. Specially during the monsoon natural beauty in these places comes closest to 'Heaven' if I am not exaggerating. Pune and Mumbai resembles each other in numerous other aspects. But Pune is quieter, more peaceful, more pollution free and more well planned city than Mumbai is. Life in Mumbai is faster and I can say that in no other city of this country life is as fast as in Mumbai. Pune on the other hand is a sort of easy going and 'take-your-time' kinda city. Like Mumbai, pune also has good nightlife and cleaner and broader roads(unlike Calcutta).
So taking all these into consideration I would like to settle down in Pune if there is someone kind enough to give me the desired money. hello!!! Is anybody listening????

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Good for you, Pritam. Now you only have to wait for the fairy godmother.

Shilpi said...

I'm revisiting this post (of all posts) again. I forgot to mention this the first time around - but I rather enjoyed reading Mayuri's, Nishant's, and Tanmoy's comments. Tanmoy's comment - apart from being funny - contains bits of something that I've felt on more than a couple of occasions. Places matter sometimes only because of the people living there. I wouldn't live in a city myself but I found Mayuri's description of city life somewhat similar to what a couple of college friends have told me and they cannot imagine how or why I dislike cities. And Nishant's dream is a nice one. Hopefully he'll see it coming true some day.
Nice environs do make a difference sometimes...Hmm.

Bye for now. This post of yours, Suvro da, is something like the one on "Maps....just musing" which I revisit every now and again....I have no idea what the connection is. Places and maps, maybe.

pankajsingh said...

I have always dreamt for the best. And that is why I would love to be in Delhi itself. I agree with Mr Pritam. Despite of having many disadvantages big cities offer lots and lots of things. But i had already expected sir to like small towns more. This is because he seems to be peace loving and a satisfied person. But the foremost condition to like big cities is a hyper-ambitious attitude, a spark to achieve and achieve and never be satisfied with what you have achieved. Satisfaction is an ornament of old people. For young hearted people satisfaction is death. I would love to visit cities like LA, New York, London...etc And as far as India is concerned I think Delhi, Mumbai, Jaypore, Indore, Dehradoon etc are worth dwelling cities. But "it depends"....depends on the age of hearT!!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

You will be amazed, Pankaj. To name just one very 'ultra-modern' and 'successful' person you may have heard of, Bill Gates likes to live in a small town!

Rashmi said...

This is a very interesting post Sir and the topic discussed is very close to my heart. In fact, it is something that Sayan and I discuss almost every day. Of all the places you have listed on the post, I have stayed in Visakhapatnam for more than four years (my parental home being there) and I have visited Bhubaneswar mainly to catch my trains to Visakhapatnam and for a short dental check up at a dental clinic near the Bhubaneswar railway station. I had stayed there for a few days and found the people there friendly and helpful. I do not know much about the city but it has never really appealed to me enough to think of staying there permanently.
And yes sir, I hate big cities too, even more because I live in one. I have been living in Kolkata for the past five months and I have unending complaints. The only one thing I find positive here is the love of my family. Other than that, all I encounter is dust, smoke, noise, maddening traffic, traffic jams, noisy shopping malls mushrooming all over the place, and people having nothing sensible to do or say. The housing complex in which we stay is however a stark contrast to the world just outside its gate with green trees and parks and a variety of flowers and birds. We survive by avoiding crowds as much as possible and go for evening walks inside the complex itself.
I was surprised and sad going through the comments. I disagree with Pankaj Singh on many a point. First and foremost, I know that Sir is not ‘old’ at heart. He is one of the most energetic and spirited persons I have known. But yes he is definitely more satisfied with his life than any of us. So, he is definitely not dead [Ref: For young hearted people satisfaction is death].
Let me now give an account of Visakhapatnam as I know it.
Positives first:
1. The picturesque mountains, greenery and the never ending sea are not only a feast for the eyes but also create a wave of ecstasy for both the body and soul.
2. Although the popular beaches (R.K. Beach,Rushikonda beach etc.) are thronged by crowds these days, we were lucky enough to find the Mutyalamma beach (on the outskirts of Vizag) where we could see a long stretch of clean sand and the sea and the only ones who shared this sight with us were a few locals and the local fishermen.
3. Visakhapatnam being famous for its mountains, one can go through the meandering ghat roads of its different mountains and find relics of Buddhist monks (Thotlakonda), the more than one thousand year old temple of Lord Narasimha (Simhachalam), Kailashgiri Park etc. on their top.
4. Another major attraction of Visakhapatnam is its Submarine Museum on the R.K. beach which exhibits INS Kursura submarine. The first of its kind in South East Asia, the museum exhibits the original submarine and the life inside it.
5. The roads are less crowded and cleaner than the metros and a car or bus ride on the highways connecting the city to its outskirts is a rare treat with mountains on both sides of the road.
6. The outskirts of Visakhapatnam like Bheemili, Tagarapuvalasa and Simhadri are quiet and peaceful compared to the main city.
Coming to the negatives:
1. The city will not remain so in the next ten years with people competing to cut down the mountains to create IT hubs and build residential complexes.
2. The pollution and temperature are steadily increasing.
3. Night pubs, IMAXs, and shopping malls and posh restaurants are on the rise.
4. With Visakhapatnam getting increasingly popular as a tourist destination, its major beaches are becoming increasingly crowded and hence dirty.
We would have loved to have our dream home in the outskirts of Visakhapatnam but only if one could stop time or better reel back a decade or two when the inhabitants of the city did not know what the summer season was. Our search for the ideal place continues and we hope to find it someday.
Rashmi Datta

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Many thanks, Rashmi (should I call you Mrs. Datta now?),
1) Because I heard from you after such a long time!
2) because I love to find comments on older posts,
3) because our tastes are so similar.

I was in Vizag last in 2002. I don't think I'd enjoy visiting the 'improved' version today.

I hope you two together find your dream home sooner rather than later.