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BLUE RUIN

What exactly is a “sky city”? A city in the sky? A city made of vapour? A city coloured like the sky? (In that case, night sky or morning sky, clear sky or cloudy sky?) Or is it just a metaphor for an unreal city — a city that cannot or must not exist, or exist only in talk? Perhaps Calcutta is seeing the birth of a new phrase of such universal application that it will soon be in the Oxford English Dictionary. Sky City — a city that exists only in ministerial whim. The notion of a cosmetic change is taken to unprecedented heights of innovation by the idea, apparently floated by the West Bengal transport minister, that Calcutta’s taxis will be painted blue and white, in keeping with the general blueing of the city, which, in turn, is in keeping with the chief minister’s vision of the city in blue and white — the colour of the sky on a clear day. Everything, from park railings to illumination on important government buildings, is going to be painted or lighted in these key colours. The reason, as with all mystical visions, is beyond reasoning. Presumably, the mystic municipality will be at it in the next few months, and since the task is more mystical than municipal they will be better at it than they have proved to be in matters more directly municipal.

Finding the right colour combination is undoubtedly the crucial first step in making a city safer, healthier, cleaner and generally more user-friendly for its inhabitants. It could, with as little doubt, sort out its core problems — chaotic healthcare, inability to implement pollution control norms, arsenic in the water, archaic sewers and garbage disposal, bad roads, killer buses for public transport, an airport falling apart and beyond dismal, priceless paintings rotting away in public art galleries, to name a few. But who said that a city is made of such unimaginatively inventoried tangibles? How much more visionary and ethereal is a city with history and songs and colour and poetry flowing in its veins. Taxis? People? Roads? Blueness conquers all.