Monday, August 21, 2006

Packed Close

Reading this article in the Natural History Magazine about the design of homes in a Neolithic town reminded me of the few days I had spent at Varanasi and the awed claustrophobia of walking down Vishwanath Gali. Back in my home town, trash was emptied through a hole in the courtyard wall into a 'gali'. Once every week, day laborers carted it all away. It was more efficient a system than most towns could boast of.

Seeing houses packed like sardines in old neighborhoods is a common sight in India. Sunlight never reaches the some rooms, leaving behind a pervasive mustiness that gets into your bones. The road between rows of houses is a narrow serpentine maze. You desperately wait for it to end and lead to something wide, opener and brighter - like a baby pushing itself out of its mother's womb.

It seemed paradoxical that new neighborhoods that came into existence to meet the needs of a burgeoning population had more open space than these places that had been around for hundreds of years when there were not nearly as many people. Why did people not spread out comfortably when there was land enough for everyone - maybe the answer to that was never quite straightforward - not even in Neolithic times.

2 comments:

Priyamvada_K said...

Neolithic times = times when transportation was WAY different, and people depended on each other for lots of things. Barter system must've been used. Close-packed home also meant more security - from wild animals and wild humans. And packing homes together (sharing walls) meant less effort in built-from-scratch homes.

Priya.

Heartcrossings said...

Priya - You make an excellent point, specially about the logic of shared walls.