Via Geoff “BLDGBLOG” Manaugh we discover that people in India long ago found a solution to a shortage of affordable housing – they colonise ancient tombs and monuments, much to the chagrin of archaeologists and historians.
The city [New Delhi] is also home to tens of thousands of homeless people, and millions more who are desperately poor. Many of the otherwise homeless have made the reasonable assessment that the stout marble walls of the tombs and shrines and mausoleums that litter the city make a much nicer home, especially in monsoon season, than the sidewalk.
Some seek only temporary shelter. But others such as nine families living inside a federally protected monument called the Atgah Khan tomb, built in 1566, are so thoroughly ensconced that they can produce title deeds going back generations. They have plastered the walls, had the crypt wired to run the television and installed a fine kitchen, with wood cupboards built into the handy arched recesses.
It’s a tough call to make; history must be valued and protected, but people have to live somewhere. How can you tell a homeless family that they can’t live in an otherwise unoccupied building – you, with your job in archaeology and your apartment to go home to? You do it because it’s your job, of course, and because you believe that history must be preserved – but it can’t be much fun. [image by varunshiv]
And as the world becomes increasingly urbanised, perhaps we’ll see this sort of behaviour occuring in comparatively affluent Western cities as the less fortunate arrive in droves to seek employment and shelter. Imagine the Lincoln monument thronging with a small town of migrants from the former corn belt, or the huge family tombs of London’s great cemetaries repurposed into ersatz condominiums, always occupied by a few of the family’s oldest and youngest members to prevent claim-jumping newcomers…