When Worlds Collide #83: Exploring City Life in Lankan Imagination

When Worlds Collide, by Nalaka Gunawardene

Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today Sunday broadsheet newspaper on 15 September 2013

What makes real cities?

Beyond urban infrastructure and administrative designations, what turns an urban area into a city proper? Is it bohemian lifestyle, bustling nightlife, a certain defiance of authority, secularism or something else? How are these qualities nurtured, and by whom – the elite, merchant class, artistes or intellectuals?

I posed these harmless questions in a column last April, arguing: “A city, at its most basic, is a collective state of mind. And by that philosophical definition, we cannot find a single city in today’s Sri Lanka!”

I also asked: what made Anuradhapura a great (and proper) city of the ancient world? And how come subsequent seats of government all failed to match that high standard?

I received some predictable reactions. What’s wrong with villages, I was asked. (Nothing —…

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