In Indian mythology, Lord Brahma is in charge of creation, Vishnu of preservation, and Shiva of destruction and/or transformation (they go hand in hand). Here on Earth, we believe Man plays all three roles. Now when mortal beings with fragile egos are burdened with such responsibilities, one should expect a few bumps on the way. God knows we along with all other species, extinct or alive, have suffered our fair share of bumps. To be fair, not everything has been bad, right? There’s been development, progress, we’ve been to moon and back, literally. What say we try to focus on the good stuff for a change?
We take you through the then and now stories of these transformed cities over the years.
Change comes after ruins, my friends. Here’s us chirping about the loss of creative art and architecture, wonder and the wonderful, under a blanket of war and rubble. They broke down Greek heritage, the plays we read can no longer be lived at their real life locations, all because ISIS decided to rewrite history. Like that can be done, pffsh. Structures can fall and men will move on, but memories don’t fade. And just in case they ever do, we will always have Homer and Virgil to remind us. If they survived the Library of Alexandria ‘incident’, I guess we can pan our hopes on them… Let’s never forget the beauty our artistic ancestors left us on land and rocks, along with paper. And then we’ll move on to happier things.
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It’s a little happier. Okay, maybe not. We just wanted to mention that along with the lives lost, and the still-lasting effects of atomic bombs which were casually dropped in by a pilot who later killed himself, we also suffered the loss of art and life (as a way of life). Elaborate architecture was kicked to dust and before the people could exhale the extra pollution they had just inhaled, it was already time for another deep breath for Nagasaki. Now here’s the happier part – with destruction comes transformation. The city was rebuilt, art and architecture lived and breathed again, and we also have the works of the survivors. Okay, the happy in comparison is not so overwhelming but we’re not the ones who like reading things with a smile.
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Kalikot, Calcutta, Kolkata, definitely happier. From the trade capital under British rule to a metropolitan in in the 21st century, with three names and a Bengal Renaissance, this city is truly the exemplar of transformation. Howrah Bridge built the city around it: a blast for the homeless, the photographers, the daily commuters, and the soul-searchers. Despite being almost totally destroyed by a cyclone in 1864, Calcutta grew from 117,000 inhabitants to now a metropolitan population of approximately 14.6 million. It’s left us with the legacy of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Tagore (because, we need not mention his first name). India, the land of diversity, features Bengali in its literature and Durga Pujas across the country. The palpable excitement of the festivities is unmissable. Tourists come to India for the peace and the spirituality, we say visit Kolkata and fall in love with a woman in a white and red saari!
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4. Vegas, baby!
The land of vice and leisure was once famous for its springs and hence named Las Vegas, meaning the meadows. They tried everything to protect this ‘meadow’ from all the vice and all the leisure but outlawing gambling only paved the way for organised crime through speakeasies and illicit casinos. The Christmas Day Opening of Flamingo, mobster Bugsy Siegel’s casino after the legalisation of gambling saw top-notch talent in its lounges and dozens of celebrities in its lobbies. There was no stopping it now, Las Vegas was officially the escape to paradise, a temporary free space. Everything was supersonic – marriage, divorce, fame, money, and love. The cityscape changed as if overnight when the dam became old news and first Hard Rock café caught everyone’s attention. People became art, only until Monday morning, when they became corporate slaves again. There you go, creation, preservation, and transformation, without destruction! We happy yet?
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5. New York
We all know what happened with the Native Americans, and the blacks, and the vampires… Oh sorry, got carried away: the vampires were only in Timur Bekmambetov‘s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Anyway, what we do tend to forget is that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French in honour of the Union victory in the American Civil War and the end of slavery. Affluent people left the city in the 20th century, an era of struggle, when after the World War II the city busied itself in the construction of highways and suburbs. In these times, the streets were revitalised by immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Hear that, Trump? Now it’s time to take a silent moment for 9/11. But did we take one for Hiroshima or Nagasaki? Thought so. Let’s just move on. The city has rebuilt itself over and over much like Delhi, India’s capital, but that’s a whole other story. Some of the greatest art survives in the MET, there’s no denying that.
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Things happen, time goes on, and we learn. With destruction also comes progress and we humans with our fragile egos have still managed create something beautiful out of life, seen in these iconic cities!