Public spaces cause Regression or Progression!


Karachi Clifton Beach 1960s

The good thing about social sites is that history, in one form or the other, is becoming more accessible to all. For example, people share decade old pictures of families and cities or advertisement via facebook or chain emails. These snippets from history give one a quick glimpse into the cultural and social fabric of that time. By this I don’t mean that by mere looking at pictures and adverts one can get a full understanding of societies. Nevertheless, these tiny doses of information do provide a window into the societal norms and prevalent cultures of that time. Looking at such images of Cairo and Karachi during the 60s and 70s, It was interesting to observe the extent to which these societies have regressed or progressed in terms of inclusiveness, diversity of religions, cultural norms, fashion, gender sensitivity, civic sense, and in their overall social thinking since then. The definition of modernity would of course vary depending upon which side of the fence you are looking from. However, there is hardly any debate on the fact that societies across the globe are increasingly becoming divided on the basis of religion and ethnicities. Besides many other reasons for such state of affairs, lack of public places and mixed-use physical spaces are some of the important reasons that play a direct role in creating polarization. Open spaces for recreation in big metropolises across the developing world are diminishing and as a result there is a growing tendency for violence amongst youth as a means to self expression. Karachi, once called the Paris of Asia, is now bracketed with war torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Though, Cairo may not yet be there, but the way things are happening there, the times may not be too far. The deterioration in law and order results in gated communities and mixed use spaces become sparse. It is often seen that public spaces suffer neglect and results in abandonment when the affluent classes do not frequently visit such places. So, to what extent can we say that a lack of public spaces in mega cities leads towards regression in society? Is the current pattern of development sustainable?

A woman riding a motorbike in Karachi 196


           A Parsi family residing in Karachi during the 50

By: Unjela Kaleem