Saturday, May 18, 2013

Water melons and Street space

There is ‘Street Space’ and there is ‘Virtual Space’ and watermelons are there both places. Some people find the time to walk the Street and to bargain over a watermelon purchase. Others prefer to sit at the computer and order it online at the click of a button. It is about how much time you have. What does this mean? Why is it that people in some cities have more time and some have less time? Why are people in some places called “laid-back”and are easy-going and unhurried? What gives time its value?

In his book, ‘A Geography of Time’, Robert Levine points out that cities and cultures across the world seem to keep time a bit differently from one another. In his research, Levine works towards getting objective indicators of the pace of life. He measures people’s walking speed, their talking speed and their work speed. He finds that places that have warmer climates tend to have a slower pace of life. Places that are economically vital tend to be faster. The vital economy puts pressure on people to make every moment count.

Coming back to the watermelons, when does one order them online? When we don’t have the time to go out to shop for them on the street? An image of it becomes available for us in virtual space, to see and to order. No real space is used. But, the watermelons that are delivered to our homes are real and they need to be stored in real space before the final dispatch happens. These watermelons occupy real space, but not street space. This does not mean that cities where the pace of life is faster have streets that are empty with everything being bought or sold in virtual space.

On one side of the Krishnarao Park at Basavanagudi in Bangalore, there sits a watermelon vendor occupying a huge part of the footpath there. Perhaps, it is the wide footpath and the proximity to Krishnarao Park that makes this an attractive location for him. It is anyway a matter of a few months only. Watermelons are a seasonal fruit and he will not occupy this space forever. But, these watermelons change the visual landscape of the street.

You walk through almost any street in the Gandhi Bazaar or Basavanagudi area and there isn’t a dull moment. We do not in India need to plan for an “active street edge” as some cities in western countries do. Here, we have them already. What we do need to do is to figure out how we can smoothen the conflict between what street space belongs to the car, what belongs to the pedestrian and what belongs to the vendor. How does one do that?

4 comments:

radha said...

Oh yes. Something has to be done about this. We need them. However, there is a need for ensuring that they do not disrupt traffic flow or the safety of the pedestrian. We have plenty of vendors in our lane, the police turn a blind eye, I suspect they get their 'mamool' from them. Their customers are practically on the road and the pedestrians have no pavements.
PS - I am not sure if I would buy my supply of perishables online. At least not yet !

Anjali said...

Good you touched the topic! I see some of my friends buying groceries online including the green ones. For someone like me who has just started enjoying the shopping at APMC market and the rate and bulk buying it offers. I am not going to give up those pleasures for the online thing. Yet I have started ordering not just thru virtual markets but even directly thru company portals, brands that I trust and I am more than happy!

Deeksha said...

Allocating certain spots on the streets to vendors such that it doesn't disrupt pedestrians or vehicles would be a wonderful thing to do, but getting the authorities to plan and regulate it without corruption is easier said than done. I love the 'santhe'/market concept and like buying fresh veggies there when I can in India. Although recently here in California, I tried this new thing of getting my weekly produce shipped directly from the farmer. I can select the veggies, fruits and it gets packed in a box and delivered on a particular day of the week. Love that they are fresh as opposed to getting cold stored stuff from the supermarket.

Parminder Singh said...

This is a case every where in India and it's better that government allot some places to these vendors..