Allied Studies, Prasad Shetty

In a City, Parts Do Not Make a Whole

Urbanism and Storytelling

As the pandemic tightened its grip on humanity, the outside life in the city continued to remain distant. This year again, we were confined to our houses and worked through the task of understanding the emerging urban conditions. Where does the urban happen really? On the streets and institutions or in the factories and the offices or in the houses, the minds or bodies? It seemed to be happening everywhere - changing everything. And all of them - the streets, the institutions, the factories, the offices, the houses, the minds and the bodies seem connected to each other. Change in one appears to be transforming the other. So it is perhaps possible to look at one person closely and extrapolate about the city she lives in.

We used the conceptualisation that the city happens through an immense mixing of small forces of energetic selves, madness, desires, emotions, friendships, compassions, institutions etc. The energetic self here is the dimension of the self that drives one to undertake specific activities connected to one’s desires. Everyone seems to have a trip driven by the energetic self that one lives with and for. Trips seem to provide individuals with their energy.

Such energies, expressed in absurd quests, unusual obsessions and bizarre interests cumulatively appear to be producing the city. The city seems to acquire its generative energy from such small forces. We looked closely at a few people, accompanied them for a few days, followed up with their pasts, and became friends. They were ordinary people like us, living their everyday lives. But the close looking into their lives opened up our lives for us, and the universes around us. These short journeys with them were then stitched together to write stories.

As we wrote the stories, we realised many new things about the emerging city - trust was getting reconfigured; time and space of the everyday was getting reconfigured; there were many new types of enterprises; there were technological hijacks of life and glitches in them that created absurdities; there was a new fascination with myths, magic and rituals, there were new loneliness and new solidiries across species, a whole new cultural landscape was emerging and we were in it - living it and making it at the same time.