Over the last few weeks, my parents have talked a lot about Delhi’s new master plan. A master plan, I have learned, is a document that lays out how a city will develop for the next 20 years. I have also learned that it takes many people a lot of time to draw up a master plan. Since then, I have wondered what it would be like if children like me were asked to make a master plan for a city.
How would we plan for a city? After all, the master plan shapes a city that will be inherited by today’s children 20 years later. So it seems only fair to have children determining a city’s future.
If there is one thing that I have learned from this pandemic, it is about how boring it can be to remain confined inside your home. I don’t know how much my life will change once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. As a 12-year-old, I, like most children, rely on my parents to go out. But if I could get a magical, master planning wand, I would surely change a few things in my city.
More public space
First, I’d think about public space: roads, public squares, parks, and beaches. Though the stereotype of middle-class children is that we want to stay indoors with our video games and computers all day, we also like to go out to play with friends. But we often don’t because most of the parks in our city are fenced, which defeats the whole purpose. We are told not to walk on grass and not to touch things.
We must make usable public spaces, not just visible public spaces. A great example of usable public space is the Central Park in New York. Over there, you can do whatever you want instead of being faced with restrictions like being kept off the grass.
Public spaces should be free, clean, hygienic and accessible to everyone. They should also include another essential thing: my second must-have for a city: vibrancy.
Although vibrancy is subjective and everyone has a different taste for the forms and types of vibrancy, I think all of us can still agree that our cities are far from this. There is only concrete and glass everywhere, which makes them intimidating, mechanical, boring and unoriginal. When I was five, looking at one of the glass buildings, I would think of them as robots trying to eat me.
Things like graffiti art which some people find offensive and inappropriate, excite me. I’m not saying everyone will have a similar experience, but I have heard from most of my peers that if we could have some amount of vibrancy where we live, we would be a lot happier.
This would be laughing at a funny poster on a bad day, getting inspired by the vibrant thing and genuinely loving your city, which is a vital thing that people usually brush over.
Finally, I would like to touch upon values. I think any living space on earth should have values with residents abiding by them. Values are very different from laws, as they are something you can’t enforce but can only feel. I remember going to this small town in Germany, filled with proud flags at every corner, having little quotes to make you feel good. I still remember, it even had an advertisement for a town’s group talk, where people could share their honest feelings about the place, anonymously and safely.
Values mean that if a city thinks respect is important, it acts when someone isn’t doing so. Values mean that if a city welcomes anyone wholeheartedly, then it doesn’t discriminate in any way. If someone tries to influence a harmful opinion publicly, they talk it down and reassure everyone.
Values are about not being artificial but being genuine and engaging with your citizens. If we follow these values, our cities will automatically become better, and we will not have to focus on the specifics.
Of course, city planning is a complex exercise, and the technical people should do it. But the city is for everyone and even more so for the 41% of people who are under 18 years because they will be the citizens of tomorrow. Therefore, it is essential to take their inputs as well when planning for the future. A city that is planned through the eyes and hearts of its children is truly a city of the future.
Avira Bhatt is a student of Grade 7 at Gurugram’s Heritage Xperiential Learning School.