Washington, DC, architect Dhiru Thadani takes issue with those who insist that Mahatma Gandhi was wrong in promoting a vision of village life for India.
On the Planetizen website, Dhiru Thadani, a Washington, DC, architect born in Bombay, writes:
"The future of India lies in its villages"
On two recent occasions I have heard references to this sage assertion by Mahatma Gandhi. The first reference was made by an Indian developer blaming this statement for the narcolepsy that politicians have displayed toward the value of Indian cities. The developer's underlying idea was that if politicians cared about the city they would eliminate height and floor-area restrictions on property in land-starved Mumbai.
The second reference was made by a fast-talking Harvard University professor of economics who declared that Gandhi was certainly wrong in making this statement and that India's future depended on its cities. The professor's thesis was that the unapologetic mass-construction of high-rise structures on every underutilized urban site would increase supply, and he presumes (erroneously) that this would reduce the cost of home ownership.
Thadani says we need to delve deeper to understand Gandhi's view of cities and villages. He continues:
I would speculate that Gandhi was in fact describing a community or neighborhood, which was reinforced in a later statement that he made to "put the village back into the city." He seemed to lament the difficulty of instilling the dignity of village life into the anonymity of the city. ...
Gandhi idealized diverse self-governing communities in both the rural and urban landscapes. A robust community life is essential in the rural village as it is in any urban neighborhood, the building block of a successful city.