Karail Bustee. Dhaka.
The entire settlement is resistance. It is on someone else’s land. Morphologically, it couldn’t be any more different than the surrounding wealthy estates of Gulshan and Banani. The water bounds is. The inhabitants have set up full formal transportation networks of boats to ferry people to and from their jobs. People walk off the boats, indistinguishable from any other class. The boat drivers even sing. One day,
But, is the community and way of life really incremental? Not really, I wonder why people haven’t started to go vertical there. I guess it is really an issue of access to money and materials, and the ability of bamboo to not be able to. It can’t grow any more. That is a problem. Are their legal issues that are limiting the nature of its growth? Dharavi kept growing to a certain extent. But, it can’t anymore. But, within Karail are many spaces of resistance. It is pretty clearly planned, does that make it a space of resistance? Where does it gets it water and electricity from? The boats scrape the water pipes floating in the water. The pipes tap into the main lines in Banani. Someone is controlling it. Electricity is strung over the water, again tapped into the main line. It is all informal, or is it? Someone is regularizing and controlling it. Regardless, is informal inherently resistant?
An architect at a local university lives in this ‘slum’, out of choice. He has control over his environment, pays very little rent, and has easy access to cheap goods. His place is interesting. He rents a room from a family right on the edge of the water. I don’t know if I would necessarily say that the addition to his house is really different or an alternative. Many people rent out rooms all over the place. I guess I am drawn to it because it is formally different and has been changed. But, the space outside of it, if we think of outdoor rooms being added on, challenge the typical existence of the public realm, and the perception of it from outsiders. He is converting his space to vibrant, healthy, beautiful open space. He has planted seeds all along the shores, and imagine, beautiful, healthy plants and wildflowers currently cluttered with refuse. And he is doing it with his neighbors. They are excited and take care of it. So, they are doing what is normally considered something poor people or people in slums wouldn’t do. And they are specifically challenging the overall nature of the settlement.
This brings up this great paradox. While the inside of most people’s homes are very well taken of, most of what is around them, such as alleyways and public space is not at all respected or taken care of. My architect friend says that people don’t respect their surroundings because they don’t own the land and, consequently, don’t have security of tenure. This is a very important point, but how can the trash and human waste not be significant to people? It is the agglomeration of the all the systems that are not set up to handle so many people and there are very visible and dangerous implications of that. Where does all the trash go? Where does the waste water go? These are the big issues. Yet, people are able to figure out how to get electricity, water, cable, even internet, so why can’t they figure out how to get all that other stuff out? I am not saying that it is necessarily their responsibility. All the new stuff won’t necessarily make you healthier (aside from water, but it does increase the quality of your life, or does it if the consequences are that bad?