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Unformatted text preview: 127 Work, Life and Leisure In 1880, Durgacharan Ray wrote a novel, Debganer Martye Aagaman ( The Gods Visit Earth ), in which Brahma, the Creator in Hindu mythology, took a train to Calcutta with some other gods. As Varuna, the Rain God, conducted them around the capital of British India, the gods were wonderstruck by the big, modern city – the train itself, the large ships on the river Ganges, factories belching smoke, bridges and monuments and a dazzling array of shops selling a wide range of commodities. The gods were so impressed by the marvels of the teeming metropolis that they decided to build a Museum and a High Court in Heaven! The city of Calcutta in the nineteenth century was brimming with opportunities – for trade and commerce, education and jobs. But the gods were disturbed by another aspect of city life – its cheats and thieves, its grinding poverty, and the poor quality of housing for many. Brahma himself got tricked into buying a pair of cheap glasses and when he tried to buy a pair of shoes, he was greatly confused by the shopkeepers who accused one another of being swindlers. The gods were also perturbed at the confusion of caste, religious and gender identities in the city. All social distinctions that appeared to be natural and normal seemed to be breaking down. Like Durgacharan Ray, many others in nineteenth-century India were both amazed and confused by what they saw in the cities. The city seemed to offer a series of contrasting images and experiences – wealth and poverty, splendour and dirt, opportunities and disappointments. Were cities always like the one described above? Though urbanisation has a long history, the modern city worldwide has developed only over the last 200 years. Three historical processes have shaped modern cities in decisive ways: the rise of industrial capitalism, the establishment of colonial rule over large parts of the world, and the development of democratic ideals. This chapter will trace some of the processes of this urbanisation. It will explore how the modern city emerges, and what happens within the city. Work, Life and Leisure Chapter VI Work, Life and Leisure Cities in the Contemporary World India and the Contemporary World 128 1 Characteristics of the City To begin with, how do we distinguish between cities on the one hand and towns and villages on the other? Towns and cities that first appeared along river valleys, such as Ur, Nippur and Mohenjodaro, were larger in scale than other human settlements. Ancient cities could develop only when an increase in food supplies made it possible to support a wide range of non-food producers. Cites were often the centres of political power, administrative network, trade and industry, religious institutions, and intellectual activity, and supported various social groups such as artisans, merchants and priests....
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- Fall '09