I was at Cresskill, a tiny city in New Jersey several months back. Its highlight was its proximity to the Big Apple. It is a small town, complete with picturesque squares, neighborhood shopping centers, friendly neighbors and bustling schools. The cars that ran on the roads were mostly mini-vans clearly giving the impression that many families lived in the vicinity. However the traffic was distinctly different during two times of the day — early morning and late afternoon. During these times, the narrow streets were lined with NJ Transit buses, ferrying almost the entire town’s population to the nearest big city — New York. One of the greatest selling points of this little town was its proximity to the Big Apple. Cresskill was like any other American suburb — a bedroom community. The local population largely worked outside the city limits, coming back only to watch sitcoms, eat dinner and go to sleep.
Urban areas have been slowly bulging at their seams, unable to keep everyone within its limited confines. Cost of living has rocketed and standard of living has plummeted. Living in a bustling megapolis like New York is certainly wrought with rising crime and sub-standard living conditions. Erstwhile unknown towns, like Cresskill suddenly gained prominence as people willing to commute and shell out money for the extra comforts began moving away from the city. There are hundreds of such towns; Edison being the Desi hub along the New York-New Jersey line. These towns have a distinct identity but cannot for a moment deny the common thread and link to the adjacent megapolis. Rejuvenating downtowns of such small towns make for a better living as the residents strive to delineate a town culture. This phenomenon is not only America-centric but also has been seen in India. Bombay-New Bombay, Delhi-Noida, Hyderabad-Secundarbad, etc. are few of such cities with satellite townships, as is known in town planning lingo.
The question asked in recent times is whether the relationship between such settlements remains equal or does it have the tendency to experience a role-reversal. Cresskill is definitely too tiny to even dream of rivaling New York but New Bombay is certainly gaining ground on Bombay. Be it conscious efforts of the government to locate primary functions like the wholesale market, steel market, or domestic airport or market-based decisions of people to locate themselves outside the city, the movement definitely is afoot. The role reversal may never occur but it sure is interesting to study such hidden relationships between settlements.