The gentle west wind hums/ As it blows in from the lake/ Over the fields and swaying palms/ The soul songs of the waves.
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Friday, May 16, 2008
How do paths get formed?
Babu George has given the following comment on my post Kerala photos: Village paths ‘One of my research interests ever has been the question of how 'paths' get formed. Who was that 'innovator' that treaded this path first? Given that paths are rarely straight lines even when there is a plain land between two places, what are the complex creative human urges behind the formation of a particular path? How does a vague and tentative path marked out by the first mover go through the approvals and disapprovals of the rest of the society and get its final shape?’
I consider this an interesting question. A man walks over a piece of land from one point to another. Some others follow the same route. Why? The first few who pass that way could not possibly leave a discernible track. But more footprints fall on the same route and a trail emerges.
Why do all those people take the same path? A few years ago there was, if I remember right, a relevant decision by the Kerala High Court in an easement right case. The ruling was that people tend to take the shortest route while walking on open land and that by itself does not vest any particular right on the users. This could mean that paths are formed at the convenience of the commuters.
Sometimes even on vacant ground one finds bends in a path. See the photograph (Copyright TP) below
You can see the path curving in the foreground. The reason is obvious. The way has to thread through the two coconut palms. Perhaps it was a straight line before the trees were planted. If the palms die out or are removed, will the curve still remain? It would, I think; people have a tendency to follow a set pattern.
On undulated surface how would a walkway emerge? Here also, would the convenience aspect prevail? Avoid the boulders and the steep climbs wherever possible? Compromise between the effort of climbing and the time factor would perhaps decide the trail.
According to me, the subject is fascinating. I hope that Babu George goes ahead with his research and in course of time we would have definitive answers.