I am surprised to see this message posted by Gita Dewan Verma. My reason for
talking to her was just as she stated: I sought help on a student studio
exercise. Nothing more. She however responded, even at the time I spoke to
her, as recorded by her in the rest of her message. I realised that I had
upset her and immediately apologised, terminating my conversation. I thought
that was the end of the matter. So I'm puzzled to see this private dialogue
in the public domain.
Since it has now entered the public domain, I offer a few comments on what
has been posted.
I did review the book, Slumming India, but hadn't realised until now that
Ms. Verma considered it "silly". Since she hasn't seen fit to clarify her
objections to my review, I can only speculate as to how it was inadequate.
Was it not a balanced and informed critique of her thesis? Should I have
uncritically endorsed the book in public, airing my criticisms to the author
only in private? It was my (evidently "silly") presumption that the culture
of book reviews involves a mutually respectful and productive dialogue
between the author and reviewer in a manner that benefits a wider reading
community, rather than this belated, vehement and unprofessional display of
pique by Ms. Verma. If Ms. Verma wished to respond to my review, I would
have been delighted to read her comments in a letter to the Editor of The
Book Review anytime after the review appeared over a year ago. Both I and
the readers of the journal would have learnt much from Ms. Verma's response.
By choosing to respond now (in February 2005), in this manner and forum, and
in the context of my unrelated academic request to her, Ms. Verma fails to
persuade me of her case.
So much for the book review. As for the DMP process, we clearly disagree on
the issues, but I think my colleagues will all vouch for me when I say that
I have always welcomed discussion and debate on this matter. If I didn't
make the five-minute walk down the road from the TVB-SHS campus to Ms.
Verma's house in Vasant Kunj to solicit her comments, neither did she come
to visit me. I don't translate her failure to do so as a sign of her
unprofessionalism and I fail to understand why she cannot extend the same
courtesy to me. I might make "silly" comments to the media, but I certainly
don't prevent her from countering with erudite responses. As with the matter
of the review, there is a time and a place in which to conduct these
discussions, to say nothing of an etiquette which one must observe when
doing so. I wish that Ms. Verma had respected me enough to seek me out for a
conversation before venting her fury in the manner that she has.
Since our disagreement is now a matter of public record, I wish to state
clearly for that record that neither I nor my colleagues have ever had any
intent to denigrate Ms. Verma professionally or personally. We firmly
believe that we can disagree on some issues and still respect each other as
colleagues. In fact, our request that she assist in a student studio
exercise was, if anything, proof of our respect for her work rather than
some machiavellian exercise in influence peddling.
A.G. Krishna Menon
----- Original Message -----
From: "Gita Dewan Verma" <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>
Cc: <[email protected]>; <[email protected]>
Sent: Saturday, February 12, 2005 8:23 PM
Subject: [in-enaction] I think no one can help TVB-SHS
I received a call today from A G K Menon, Director TVB
School of Habitat Studies, to ask if I could *help*
with a housing studio, give orientation (to students,
obviously) about constitutional processes. Some days
ago Dean of Studies A B Lal had called to ask if I
could *help* about their illegal site, since I
understand best Delhi Master Plan processes.
TVB-SHS is five minutes walk from my flat in Vasant
Kunj. For five years I have been engaging in support
of DMP processes, mainly as planner consultant to
citizens' groups, many in and around Vasant Kunj (in
all sorts of housing). For five years
*professional-trustees* (a phrase from Lal) like Menon
have lent *expert* credentials to extra-constitutional
processes to open-up, in name of an unlawful DMP
revision, public land acquired for half century in
name of DMP for world-class loot. Not once in five
years did *professional trustees* consider my work
worth a thumbnail in the professional space that they
control. After a full range of constitutional
processes has been subverted to substitute DMP with
lately approved draft DMP-2021, which I do not even
have access to forget expertise on, I am being invited
to *help* - what?
Just last week my clients lodged complaints against
experts and NGOs supporting DMP violations challenged
in court cases, public notice responses, Central
Vigilance Commission references, memoranda on which
Parliamentary Committee is to hear oral evidence, etc.
I saw no point in telling Menon that a serious
professional-practice ethics issue (and not, say, a
silly but damaging review that he wrote of my book and
me, his silly but damaging expert-planner comments in
media, etc) stands in my way to his TVB-SHS - has been
driven to stand there because questions about what
generally stands in the way of those wanting to *help*
have been ignored for too long.
I am posting this in case anyone wants to fret about
professional-space issues that such situations raise.
I myself have lately decided to save my fretting for
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