On a visit to a fort once, the guide pointed at the expanse of the fort boundaries spread across hills and showed the various elements within the fort like the granary, armoury, water reservoirs, jails, marketplace, bath-areas, places of worship, watch-towers, durbar-hall (the king's court), and the royal residences. He said, some forts also have the settlements for the king's subjects within the fort area. In short, the entire city with its infrastructure, amenities and residences used to be within the fortified walls.
With the gradual transition from the monarchial set up to the more new forms of governance, the ways in which we lived began to change.
All these were spread over vast areas spreading across kilometres.
Population density increased, technology evolved and we had the multi-storeyed living formats. Gradually, over the years, the multi-storeyed apartments evolved into residential high-rises with words like 'towers' and 'condominiums' being added to the lexicon. A couple of such multi-storeyed apartments together formed a 'residential complex'. The residential complex could gradually afford a green space in between them for the children to play. Swimming pools, clubs, cafeterias, and gymnasiums were further added. Commercial components were then introduced in the form of supermarkets, banks, medical stores and the like -- all within the same 'residential complex'.
The list of add-ons required within the residential complexes kept increasing with man's increasing demand for a more comfortable life. So, the residential complexes began growing in size, even horizontally.
Today, we not only flaunt the nth floor we live in, but also urge people to take note of the number of acres our home is spread across. So, we have age-old words like 'townships' and 'cities' being redefined in umpteen ways to convey the inorganic habitat we have tailored to cater to our needs and aspirations.
Looking back from this current age of townships, to the period of the forts, one actually doesn't see much difference in context and content! Our homes are still in an area demarcated by a physical boundary and separating us from our neighbouring "township". The cycle of evolution seems to have been completed. Or is it so?
While the above narrative is from a macro standpoint, let's for a moment, just look at the evolution of home at a more individual level.
While the common man from the village moved into one of these modern townships, those economically far better off than him were also pushing up their definition of a home. While at the farthest end of the spectrum they were buying castles and islands, at a more mundane level, they gradually started to think of ways by which their regular residence could be converted into statements in themselves. As the urbanscape did not allow them to spread their home lavishly across kilometres, they got fascinated by the adage of 'sky is the limit' and started to lift the boundaries of their homes skywards.
(Bitan Chakraborty is assistant general manager -- marketing, Hiland Group)