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Lisbon and Amaravati: A tale of two cities
'What is the reason to be proud of any country's history?' (e desa charitra choosina emunnandi garvakaranam?- in Telugu) Was the mature line of great poet Sri Sri from his Mahaprasthanam which was an anthology of poems and considered an epic and a magnum opus in Indian poetry.

It appears to be as true today as it was long-long ago. The French revolution that started on May 5, 1779 with the sole motive of smashing the monarchy ended on November 9, 1799. A well-known novelist Charles Dickens gave a lively picture of the pre- and post-revolution effects in his novel namely 'A Tale of Two Cities'- Paris and London.

It was the time when the European cities like Lisbon, Paris and London were becoming financially strong with the wealth plundered from the colonial states mainly after the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama standardised the sea route to India. Dickens was one of the many intellectuals who hoped that the monarchism would disappear and the common man's lot would improve. In his novel, he laments that the society was turning self-centred and mechanical. The ordinary man is unable to resist the undesirable change. The writer compares him with the chaff that comes out from the crushed frains. He puts a straight question "What more witness is needed to say that even the powerful revolution could not change things for the better?" In fact there is no considerable transformation then and now. This can be evidenced from the change of democratic governments in our country which are unable to bring any remarkable changes in the lives of the common man.

After bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into two states as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the AP people voted Telugu Desam Party to power with many aspirations. TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu who in his election manifesto told people that the Centre gave a state without a capital and promised that he would, if voted to power, work day in and day out to build a capital with international standards. Even after becoming chief minister he spent most of his time in Hyderabad. But he had to rush to Amaravati in haste following 'note for vote' case. Later it became his routine to visit foreign countries in the name of capital construction and inviting foreign delegates, getting designs ready and rejecting them, after selecting Amaravati as the state capital, hundreds of crores of public money was wasted on temporary constructions alone, without effecting any permanent construction so far.

He made it a practice to give statement from the foreign land that he would shape the capital like the city he was visiting. It is surprising that the Portuguese capital Lisbon did not cross the mind of Naidu who often overstates the cities that lack basic civic amenities.

Lisbon which stands in the 18th place in the world's best cities today was totally damaged in 1775 due to natural calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis and infernos. The city that turned into ruins was reconstructed as a natural disaster-resistant city in just a matter of five years by 1780. About two and a half centuries ago, Lisbon was built anew amid seven hills in an area of 25,000 acres in such a way that it could resist even terrific earthquakes. As many as 5 lakh people inhabit the city.

When we go to the backdrop, the whole city was razed to the ground on the morning of November 1, 1775 under the impact of a mega earthquake with an intensity measuring 8.5 to 9.0 on the Richter scale when 'All Saints Day' was being celebrated across Lisbon. The whole city turned into rubble. Thousands of people died in the havoc. Hundreds of people ran to the sea coast to save their lives. Fifty minutes after the quake, a tsunami struck the coast with giant tidal waves claiming several lives. Candles lighted on the occasion of 'All Saints Day' in several houses led to an inferno due to the quake. The triple mishaps left Lisbon lock, stock and barrel. All the art works, books, paintings including documents containing Vasco da Gama's voyage experiences turned into a handful of ashes.

The neighbouring country Spain agreed to give shelter to the dispossessed Portuguese king Joseph-I and his family. But the king chose to rule his country from the top of a hill where tents were erected. Just a month after the catastrophe, Manuel da Maia who was a court architect, engineer, and archivist was instrumental in the reconstruction of the city, submitted his comprehensive city plan. He rejected the idea of constructing the capital elsewhere. He collected the usable bricks, iron, wood and stones from the ravages and began his work. It was admirable that plans were prepared in a month's time for construction of broad squares, wider roads, bridges, wonderful mansions, housing complexes etc.

It took about a year to remove the rubble. A brand new Lisbon took shape in a matter of four years. Before reconstruction of the city, the Portuguese Prime Minister Sebastiao Jose de Carvalho e Melo who addressed the people asked them not to get dejected over nature's fury.

"Let's put our hopes in the new waters that the quake brought out. The disaster threw a challenge to our intellect, capabilities and unity. Let's consider this as an opportunity to prove our capabilities to the world. Let the Portuguese once again show its power," he said. As a matter of fact, Portugal is a small country. But it has a powerful naval force. It was the first European country to be benefited through the trade carried out in our country following the discovery of sea route to India by Vasco da Gama.

The Portuguese proved their mettle by constructing a fabulous city after its massive destruction. In fact the difficulties faced by the Andhra Pradesh state are far less than those faced by them. But the state government is unable to finalise the designs for the construction of the capital despite having layed the foundation stone nearly three years ago. The Portuguese rulers chose to live with their people in tents while our rulers are interested to live in posh mansions. The devastated city's rebuilding plan was prepared just within a month's time while the plans of Amaravati are still waiting on the drawing boards. The AP government is utilising every rupee for its selfish ends and publicity while the Portuguese reconstructed the calamity-hit Lisbon with recycled construction material.

Lisbon's buildings constructed 237 years ago are still intact while the Amaravati's temporary structures recently constructed with hundreds of crore rupees are showing cracks. In Lisbon every inch of land was utilised for the people while our rulers are ceding hundreds of acres of land to foreign companies. While the construction of Lisbon city during those times was synonymous with sacrifices, joint effort and talents and capabilities, today's Amaravati has become a host of negative trends like self interests, narrow-mindedness, immaturity and unilateral ways. All government works undertaken in Amaravati bespeak commercial and political advantages. If this continues, 'Amaravati' which is believed to be the place of celestials and a temple town will be reduced to 'Bhramaravati' which means the place of delusions.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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