Udaipur as a Learning City
Summary of Initial Perceptions/Responses
February 28, 2000
Over the course of the past three months, I have been discussing the
'Udaipur as a Learning City' process-project with a number of people from different age
groups and backgrounds to try to understand what they think about the process. I have
specifically tried to delve into: How they perceive Udaipur and what is their vision for
Udaipur? What they think are the major problems and the strengths of the city? What is
'learning' (as opposed to teaching) and what would they like to learn from and share with
others? And how do they think this process-project should be developed?
My discussions and interactions included sharing with them some of
Shikshantar's ideas and some of the invitational activities/mechanisms that have been
initiated under this process-project so far. I also shared with them a copy of the
questionnaire "Aaiye Udaipur Se Seekhain" and small write-ups and summary
notes on this process-project. The following is the summary the major findings thus far:
Why "Udaipur as a Learning City?"
- Most of the people felt that the future of Udaipur is going to be very bleak and
disappointing if the present conditions and apathy continues. They all feel that something
needs to be done.
- A crucial issue that most Youth seem to be facing and articulating is the lack of good
career and lucrative opportunities in the city. They feel that they will have to go out to
bigger and more 'advanced' cities if they want to get better jobs. Some of them were
hopeful that this process-project should help them in realizing and rediscovering the
hidden learning opportunities and the potential workspaces present in Udaipur. Most of
them feel that it has become a mindset to want to run-away to bigger cities and elude from
engaging in processes of creating new spaces and roles/ responsibilities in their own
- A virtually unanimous feeling on the biggest issue facing Udaipur today is that of
"Water". They suggested that "Udaipur as a Learning City" process
should take this on seriously. When asked how? They were not clear about it.
- Some older citizens of the city felt that in the past (around 30 years ago) Udaipur had
all the ingredients in it to make it an Education City. Somehow with the onslaught of
outside forces all those elements and values have been made to atrophy. They need to be
appreciated and respected before we try to rediscover and regenerate Udaipur into a
Learning City. They felt Udaipur has plenty of untapped potential that we need to realize
and develop before it gets co-opted and commercialized by outside forces.
- Though the young people think Udaipur has been a relatively peaceful city up until now,
they feel that over the next 10- 15 years it will become crime-ridden and socially
alienating. They felt that this process project should try and create some spaces and
opportunities for sharing, collective thinking and learning. They also felt that one of
the major challenges for this process-project should be to facilitate individual and
collective vision building opportunities/ spaces and strategies with the people and save
Udaipur from becoming a Jaipur or Delhi.
How should we develop "Udaipur as a Learning City"?
- Quite a large number of young and old people thought and hoped that Shikshantar would be
putting forth ready-made models or pre-planned agendas for Udaipur as a Learning City.
Some people asked for a model that could be replicated in Udaipur. They were rather closed
to wanting to engage in thinking and dreaming (sharing their vision) about how to develop
- It became very clear from the interactions that most of the people are deeply
conditioned to believing that all 'good and bad' in the city is due to the
Government and the Administration. They felt that whatever needs to be done for the good
of the city will have to come from the government; it is the Government's duty to think
about the crisis and the problems facing the city. Many people also put the responsibility
onto the NGO's. Very few people felt that 'people-led' initiatives and activities could
- Some people articulated that several similar experiments have already been tried out in
the past in Udaipur and nothing really took shape or lasted long. They felt that doing
something new is nearly impossible, as the people are really closed and resistant to
getting involved in new experiments.
- A couple of people were rather blatant and adamant in saying that the people of Udaipur
are not capable of thinking for themselves. The solution would be that someone from
outside does that thinking and the people from Udaipur simply implement it. They felt
things could not really organically evolve from the intrinsic motivation of the people,
there has to be pressure from outside.
- Interestingly only a few people were interested in articulating what the
"Essence" of Udaipur is and what makes it a unique city. Mostly all the people
described it's natural beauty and lakes as the major point, which is also the reason for
attracting so many foreign tourists to Udaipur.
- Some people mentioned that a good way to direct Udaipur as a Learning City process
project into some concrete activities would be by taking on campaigns and programs such as
the banning of polythene bags and cleaning up the lakes.
- Another idea that came up was that as a starting point for this process we should
collect 'Status Reports' on all relevant areas of the city such as on Population,
Environment, Education, Health, Crime Rate, Industrial Development, Culture, Spirituality
etc. This would help us to get a better idea of Udaipur and where it stands today in
relation to other cities and metropolitans.
- It was also mentioned that a good way to take this process forward could be by trying to
go deeper into the dimension of "caring" in Udaipur, i.e how to re-instill the
feeling of care about others in all aspects of our lives?
- A suggestion that came up was that there should be study of languages and the history of
Udaipur (beyond Rana Pratap and James Todd's version). A few people shared their deep
concern over the impending extinction of Mewari.
On learning and sharing together
- Only a handful of middle class educated people really said that they wanted
to engage in new learning experiences or do something new, creative and transforming. So
far only one or two concrete examples of probable self- initiatives have come up. Some
people felt that they need some time and informal spaces to realize and articulate their
personal and collective strengths, potentials and interests and actual needs they
acknowledged that they do not have such opportunities in their current formal
institutional set-ups or in their families.
- Most educated people were not clear and open to understanding in depth what
'meaningful deep learning' and creativity is and where it takes place. They
are mentally trapped up in the transmission based and surface learning processes that are
practiced and taught in schools.
- Most people were not interested in engaging in deeper issues related to rethinking our
societal notions of progress and success. They were content with
simply trying to do practical work.
- In interacting with the youth and some younger children, I felt that they really want to
do new, exciting things, but they are usually bogged down with many academic and family
pressures. They feel that there is a lot they would like to learn and share but they do
not know how to do so with the shortage of time and also lack of encouragement from their
peers and families.
- The retired and older people said that they would be interested in doing something for
the city. Some of them have already formed a group of retired and concerned citizens who
come together once a month on a very informal basis. They felt that the group's
involvement in this process-project could provide them a platform and also some direction
on what they should share and learn with and from other younger people.