Slow City Movement - What would you choose?

Last week a small article had appeared in the Times of India on a very unique idea - The Slow City Movement. (to read more http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/special-report/Big-idea-for-small-towns/articleshow/10373055.cms). This article has prompted this Blog post and I wish to introduce this possibility for all of us think about "slowing down".

The Fast Food movement that is seen across the world is countered by proponents of a Slow Food Movement. The ready-to-cook, processed Fast Food is found to create many health problems, including obesity and Diabetes, even in young children. The Slow Food Movement, on the other hand, promotes food that is cooked over a period of time, retaining the nutrition and taste of the ingredients, while giving the eater a sense of satisfaction and fullfilment.

The Slow City Movement is such an unique concept that enlarges the philosophy of Slow Food to communities and towns, essentially talking about the Quality of Life and enjoyment of Experiences that a city offers. According to CittaSlow (http://www.cittaslow.org), an organization working towards this movement since 1999, offers a platform where 'slow cities' can form their network and share experiences. The cities on CittaSlow "are motivated to ensure that citizens are still protagonists of the slow and healthy succession of seasons, respectful of citizens’ health , the authenticity of products and good food, rich of fascinating craft traditions of valuable works of art, squares, theaters, shops, caf├ęs, restaurants, places of the spirit and unspoiled landscapes, characterized by spontaneity of religious rites, respect of traditions through the joy of a slow and quiet living. "

Hmm. a long ambitious list! Achievable? Why not? Today you will see numerous cities and communities that have consciously embraced the Slow City Movement to ensure an enhanced Quality of Life. But you will see this movement being picked up by cities in Europe and America, where the cycle has seemingly turned towards slowness.

Till a few years back, Mumbaikars used to tease Punekars on the siesta enjoyed by shopkeepers in Pune or they often spoke of how quickly an enterprising shopowner would procure the right goods for you in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Punekars used to the slowness of service and of the afternoon siesta, have moved on since then. The shops are now open 24x7 and the next door shopwala has become just as enterprising! Has this led to the destruction of the Slow City life that Pune once enjoyed? Is this a cyclic nature of urbanization, where a slow city picks up pace, starts running towards wherever it wants to go, till its citizens start slowing it down? Like it has happened in Europe, where citizens have demanded citizen amenities that allow them to enjoy the city, walking to destinations and choosing to work shorter hours to be able to spend more time in leisure.

But, what does Slow City mean for the Economy? When Pune was slow(er), it offered less economic opportunity, less incomes and consequently less options for its citizens. In result, the citizens migrated to fast(er) cities for jobs, growth and incomes. Then, does Slow City Movement mean that cities will lose their economic edge? Will Slow City Movement confine itself to retirement towns and leisure tourist places where people don't need to be in a hurry to reach anyplace? Were the Punekars, when Pune was slow(er), an unhappy lot?

A good balance would of course be a city where the work is 'fast', efficient, achieving more in less time, thus giving free time to the citizens to enjoy the 'slow' evenings at theatre, in parks or just walking home! Surely a thought to ponder upon - how do we enjoy the benefits of the Slow City, keeping the economic pace or do we make a conscious choice of reduced economic growth and enjoy the Slow City? What would you choose? And are they mutually exclusive?

A friend of mine recently moved to Devrukh, a small Konkan town, tired of the fast paced life in Pune. Will this choice ensure him a much higher quality of life, despite the less income! Will I be able to trade a Cafe Coffee Day Coffee for a quiet stroll along a non polluted river in Devrukh?

Surely, you have your opinions and choices. Let me hear them! What will you do? Embrace a Slow City (which we all fondly feel nostalgic about) or continue in our Fast Cities, becoming faster, unable to give up the 'consumptive enjoyment' that cities offer us today? 


Comments

  1. To choose a Slow City is one thing. To bring it about is another. One way is to do all that can be done to stop fast track projects especially when they pump in BORROWED MONEY.
    Those who wish to be artificially fast AT THE EXPENSE TO THE FUTURE GENERATIONS work very very fast on borrowed money and sell the illusion of speedy development - while all they are doing is to rush towards a dead-stop disaster in the future. They are neither fast nor slow, they are just greedy for themselves. We must stop them quick and true for THEY speed-up the cities into urban sickness. Ex. Jalbiradari and Baner Area Sabha's Mumbai High Court PIL stopped the PMC in tracks - disallowing them reduction of width of the river, denying them the creation of lands stolen from the river bed (devnadi case), denying them ALL works on ALL rivers and streams where the focus is on encroaching river-bed and stream-bed lands for commercial exploitation in the name of flood control and river-bank beautification.

    Beware of all fast track projects on rivers which DO NOT SPEAK of cleaning the water but speak of beautifying the banks. Such projects are literrally poison for the rivers and for the villagers downstream.
    Jalbiradari has set a good example of slowing down/shutting down such ill-advised and short-sighted projects. Can we do that in other sectors? Corrupt projects breed black money and the tendency to spend recklessly fast and live recklessly fast at the expense to others.

    Unless we slow down the wrong 'fast-development' projects which are on borrowed funds we are fooling ourselves with airy wish-lists about a 'genteel slow-city movement'.

    The money saved from fast-track projects and money saved due to anti-corruption activism can fund the wish-lists of a vision of a Pune City which lives at a comfortable and sustainable pace - without burdening future generations and downstream villagers with our poisonous by-products - garbage and sewage.

    Vinod Bodhankar. Adhyaksha, Jalbiradari Pune District

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  2. being a mumbaikar, i loved the fast life ...until i went to auroville, where mins seems like hours. in my personal opinion, it it depends on how you accept the "slowing down". If we are ready to embrace the slowness as time passes, one starts enjoying that too, by balancing the work time effeciently. a balance rightly suggested by you.

    "Will Slow City Movement confine itself to retirement towns and leisure tourist places where people don't need to be in a hurry to reach anyplace?" - in my honest opinion, we have developing cities, like noida & gurgoan which would go the mumbai way ...faster and faster.

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