It is now illegal to conduct any voluntary community activity. The government thinks this only results in widespread anarchy, creates sub-national identities, and subverts the political economy that they feed off of. Much street art does still exist, sure. But it is sponsored. You walk by a mural that depicts blonde, anorexic women sipping a Diet Pepsi which is touted as eco-friendly as it is made from harvested and treated acid rain.
The CCTVs are everywhere. Should you even attempt changing a speck of paint; sirens blare, lights flare, you get publicly shamed on the spot and the money inside your bank account linked to your Aadhaar card linked to your facial biometrics gets automatically deducted.
E-challans are relics of an ancient past. If you plant even a sapling that does not match the smart city’s gardening guidelines that call for perfectly pruned plants in geometric shapes and royal palms spaced at regular distances, acid gets sprayed on it within only a few seconds by an incoming police drone, colored dull khaki.
Vertical surfaces on both sides of the road display only QR codes or beacons these days — that blast your retinas with government-sponsored propaganda and corporate advertising via the augmented reality device you have to wear because life without it is now impossible. Sections of these walls are now ‘leased’ out like the website fragments of yesteryear.
Waste material is simply incinerated via energy plants or jettisoned into outer space. There is no upcycling, for its make-do and scruffy look displeases the hordes of Airbnb tourists and jars against the sleek, smooth, shiny, ‘deus ex machina’ idea of the neighborhood.
People currently languish in prisons as seditionists for drawing dicks with chalk on the sidewalk. The concept of the public space has ceased to exist.
They call it the ecstasy of the commons.