Building on a Metaphor

Integrative Seminar Week 5


For today’s class we were to bring 6 chapters about a city made completely out of our imagination. We had to take inspiration from the book Invisible Cities, and choose certain design elements that we would like to include in our city. My concept is the “City of Metaphors”, so I decided to build on that.

I decided to create a universe called ‘Metapherein’. Then I named the country in it Metamia,which divides into 6 ‘cities’ – Rhetorica,Translatio,Similotan,Nalogi,Nificati and LLegorax.Each of these words come from a synonym of the word metaphor: rhetorical,translation,similarity,analogy,personification,and allegory. I decided to base a few things on ‘Tamara’/Cities and Signs 1 from the book, and add a few aspects of Mumbai to the cities. My plan was to include different aspects of the same city,eg. education, society etc. as individual chapter names, and then tie it all together in the end as one city, like how Polo describes Venice over and over again in different ways.

Here is my first draft of the chapters:


Is this your first time in Metamia? You’re going to need some help going around this place. I’ll give
you a little bit of history. Metamia is one of the seven countries of our planet called Metepherein. I
can’t disclose our coordinates, of course. If you’ve landed here you’ve been dreaming in your planet
for too long. If you do like this trial, your people will realize it soon and give you permanent
I’ve been here for a while now. They told me I should opt for this since I might be seeing the last of
my days. So I agreed. Didn’t even use the trial. There was no turning back for me. But lucky for you,
you have the time to make up your mind! So let me show you around.
You’re currently in the middle of the capital, Rhetorica. This was one of the first settlements here
which could bloom into a city. Thus you can tell it’s very crowded. On your left, the huge sack-like
building is the bank. Here, employees deal in hours, minutes and seconds. Show me your sleeve? Oh
right, you’re not a permanent member yet. I have about 8 years on my sleeve right now. See? The
LED display peeking through my skin shows me how much money I have left. The most influential
citizens here in Rhetorica are practically immortal. No one can touch them. But it’s often their doings
which inflict damage upon them. They waste their time on unnecessary events, and then barely have
any seconds left.
The glass panes lined up to the right are where the middle-class folk live. Be wary of any interaction
with them, as they are often hypocritical. They all seem to lead transparent lives, but often have
dark secrets hidden in their basement. The wealth and status of people here cannot be decided by
themselves. Everyone starts based on what they’ve been doing on their home planets. But of course,
once someone lands here, they can always go from rags to riches. I’ve seen people with barely 5
seconds on their sleeve turn into a centurian and live in a huge glimmering castle on Slippery Slope
Drive. SS Drive is the locality of the ‘elite’. Living in the capital’s wealthiest area, these citizens don’t
even associate themselves with people from the same city.
There’s always a yin and a yang. Right between the glass panes and glass castles, we have the most
dominant population, the rabbit holes. These are all basement level houses, with space to fit barely
one person, let alone a family. Yet there’s several of these, littered across the entire city with their
blue and black ceiling doors. Unsanitary conditions and poor hygiene reign supreme, and this is
probably the root of all the diseases spreading in the city. These shabby structures surely make a
sharp contrast to the sleek, reflective glass surrounding them.
See that family walking past? They’re from completely different planets. Added into the system
young, without a trial. We consider ourselves pretty cosmopolitan here. So those who get shunned
from their communities often flee to Rhetorica, and are allowed to peacefully exist, interplanetary
relations or not.
The magic with Metamia is that it looks different everywhere you go. You’ll think it’s wealthy. Rich in
its groundbreaking history and the origin of its citizens. But you travel a few kilometres- is that the
measurement for distance in your planet? We use attoparsecs in Adenvir – and suddenly the entire
landscape changes. This contrast is what makes it the wonderland it is.


In Metamia, we believe that education is our greatest weapon. Using the technology that we have
been able to create over several millennia, we have come up with powerful teaching methods which
reduce learning time to exactly half. This makes things a lot faster, and our students can imbibe
knowledge and apply it to their daily life, no matter what age the pupil is. Students of all ages,
planets and communities are sent to Translatio- the main education hub of the country.
Schools are chosen according to the time etched in the student’s skin. A lower number would usually
mean the child is taught only the basics, while more time would mean higher qualifications and
whatnot. What does one get after being qualified on your planet? Degrees is it? Here we believe in a
system of pieces. Successful completion of a course will give the student a single piece of paper.
Then as he/she progresses, every course would mean another piece of paper. If the student is
qualified enough, the pieces are put together to make a sensible document which tells what the
student is eligible for.
Almost every building here looks like a stack of books. The higher the stack is, the more the number
of courses taught in the institution. The rabbit hole citizens would usually go to the minimum 4 stack
schools, the middle-class students range from 6-stack to 8-stack buildings, while the elite choose
nothing below a 10-rack school. Like in any business, politics apply in the education business too.
There are always private tutors lurking around every corner of Translatio, offering to teach more
courses for a lesser cost. These often aren’t certified, but parents trust these people anyway, having
heard from acquaintances and people from their community.
I went to 7-Stack B5 from the moment I landed here. Having an interplanetary classroom accounts
for a lot of chaos. People are made to sign a legal death responsibility form before they ship off their
child to Translatio. In the 5-12 years that a pupil will spend here, there is no guarantee of what he
will face, what struggles he will go through, what kind of strange creature’s he will meet. But they
have to be mentally prepared to ring the child’s death knell. Lives here are lost for several reasons,
and the higher the stack, the better the distance to jump down from. The city almost felt like a
prison to me sometimes, trapping me, preventing me from seeing my family, and even an ounce of
enjoyment. It’s so fast. Everyone seems like they know more than you. It was a blow to my self-
esteem sometimes. But it’s not all bad. Coming here, I’ve learnt so much from all the friends I’ve
made. Being from different worlds, we’ve been exposed to so many different species and their
cultures. Some of the students I met on my first day of 7-Stack B5 are now like family to me. So yes, I
give Translatio full credit for that.
Oh, have you noticed something? I almost forgot to tell you. The ‘sky’ over the planet is simulated.
You are programmed to see colours corresponding to the time on your sleeve. Mine says 05:23:27 if
I look at the hours. So I kept seeing a perpetual sunset today. You might be basking in the glow of
the morning Sun. For those with only minutes, and seconds, however, the sky appears painfully dark


I’ve always wondered where the water in Adenvir came from. I saw it flow through the sdefobs, or
taps, as you call it, of my home, and never knew where exactly it’s coming from. But Metamia leaves
no stone unturned when it comes to letting their citizens know what’s up. Thus I bring you to
Similotan, the water city.
The geography of this place is mind-boggling. The city is triangular in shape, and two of its three
sides are surrounded by water. We call this water body the ‘Sea of Grief’. I think it’s because this
part of the city is made to look grey forever, as part of the sky simulation. This is the main water
body which provides for most of Metamia’s aquatic needs. Similotan looks like a huge misaligned
chessboard for the most part- the huge white blocks,i.e the tanks, and the black fertile soil below.
The water in the Sea of Grief is sickly sweet. The entire process of making the water drinkable is
essentially getting rid of sweetness. The filtration plant feeds a humongous pipe into the sea, which
sucks up several gallons of water due to its powerful vacuum. This then goes through three stages.
The first tank filters solid impurities. This is where most of the soil and massive sugar crystals are
dealt with. The second stage involves exposing the water to radiations of different frequencies, this
zaps out any of the bacteria and leaves the water clear for the third stage, which is about actually
removing the sweetness. The entire tank is boiling hot and then allowed to rapidly cool, crystallizing
small shards of sucrose. After these are extracted (and sold separately, of course) artificial additives
improve the taste of the water and neutralise any remaining sweetness.
Of course, this sounds really simple as I explain it right now, but almost 90% of the residents of
Similotan are employed in working for the water plant. As the pipelines go on connecting one white
block to another, it is the tendrils of a growing grapevine, involving the entire city in the water-plant
Similotanians have been in the water business for ages. There’s always someone being zapped,
falling in scalding hot tanks, or being vacuumed. So fresh replacements are always coming in through
connections, relations, and acquaintances. This is the city with minimum literacy since none of the
families send their children to Translatio. And why would they? If they have jobs laid down for the
child already, why does the child need to study? Why does the child need to have an opinion on
what his/her future would look like? Only Similotanians can answer that.


If Rhetorica was the heart, then Nalogi is the backbone. You might’ve noticed how Naloigi is a little
further away from the rest of the places we’ve visited so far. This place is the most guarded in all of
Metamia. It’s the administration network of the country.
Of course, there are gauzaxendt or government offices in every city, but Nalogi is the mother of all
these departments. It controls all the cities. It controls everyone.
Back when Metamia still hadn’t formed, there was no system of political hierarchy on this land.
There were small groups, communities, formed according to planetary origin and occupation. That is
when a group of Weniyoditans, a small community who’d been original occupants of this planet as
long as one could remember, decided it was time to take things in control. No one has ever seen
them, but I like to imagine them as people with a swollen skull, greyish brown skin and a protruded
mouth with sharp canines inside. It is said that they were pretty tall, almost 8 feet in height, and
almost looked reptilian. Sometimes I look at the people living on this planet around me, the kind
of…variety of features everyone has. And then I simply regret being born as a human on Earth. I
mean think of the possibilities! Gills, fins, talons, wings, paws, tentacles, I could go on and on.
Anyway, these creatures were the core group that led to the proper establishment of Metamia. And
they decided that the currency that runs this place must be time. I miss paper currency too. It was
something tangible, something you could hold, something you could store away for the future. But
not time. Time is the trickling water from a tap. It takes it’s course, whether I like it or not. I can’t
hold it, I can’t stash it away, and I definitely cannot stop it. So after this tough currency was set, they
needed to put in position a system by which time could at least be made slightly tangible. That’s
where the sleeve chips come in. The technology takes advantage of your unconsciousness during
your journey here, and a chip is inserted through your wrist into your right forearm. The currency
from your previous planet is converted into hours, and that’s the time you’re set with on your first
day in Metamia.
Nalogi was always a strict lockdown kind of place. The gigantic wall guarding it is only a small
physical barrier, the entire place is surrounded by a powerful force field which can fry people to a
crisp within nanoseconds. So we’re here, looking at its large central dome beyond the Wall, simply
strangers from the outside. No one comes out of Nalogi, and no one enters. It’s a cyclical system just
like Similotan, except Nalogi has better education than probably even Translatio and the place
makes sure that no one needs to go out.
The Government came up with the idea of a personalised simulated sky to help people keep track of
how much time they’re using. Here time works in two ways, it keeps ticking literally ( much slower
than Planet Earth, thankfully) and it can be added and deducted in terms of your life span. Phrases
like ‘giving you my time’, ‘waste my time’ and ‘spending time’ become all too literal here. On earth,
we didn’t spend our cash on planning what to do with the cash we got later. Then why do we spend
all our time planning out the future, instead of cherishing the present?


And we have finally arrived in Confetti Town! I don’t know a single person who’s called this place by
its real name. It’s rightly been given the nickname though, it’s literally the life of the party. Anything
extravagant, anything social, anything fun, you’re looking at Confetti town. The government’s been
kind enough to keep this place having a perpetual golden sunset, and a cool ocean breeze. People
from the glass castles in Rhetorica to the stacked books of Translatio teleport all the way here to
have a good time.
I love the ambience and warmth that the city gives. It welcomes everyone with open arms (literally,
there are two metallic open arms at the main gate of the city, as you can see). The city has floating
fairies hired all the way from Neverland (which is obviously real, second star to the right and straight
on till morning) especially to fly around with their tiny lit up bodies and make it look like floating
literal fairy lights. Everyone works in shifts at Nificati, because the place never shuts down. Even with
all the fun and thrill it gives, it probably has the lowest crime rate. I think it’s probably because
everyone is too dazed to commit a crime anyway.
It is here that people usually come searching for a mate. The hottest match-making destination in
the city. Like I mentioned, Metamia is a cosmopolitan place. So there are no rules to which two
species could be together. But yes, if a pair decides to commit, they usually head to the genetic
engineer’s office (located right in Nificati, of course) to see if their genes are compatible. If not, then
the couple usually adopts, and that’s how families form in Metamia.
Nificati is known for it’s abundant supply of psychedelics. They’re powerful enough to make you
assume you’re back on your home planet, doing human things. Maybe that’s why they’re so popular.
People often go into a trance in search of something, hoping to find a place,an emotion, or a dream.
The most popular kind grows in bushes, called Sicanban . The herb affects the cardiovascular and
nervous system of a creature, but more interestingly, it mimics slowing down of time.
This single herb is used for a variety of purposes, and is shipped across the country for use. The city
alternates between these bushes,and white tents with soft cushions to sit on. These tents, just like
its inhabitants, are temporary. This place is musical, unpredictable and liberating. It’s an immortal
fun fair. Anyway, I should stop talking for a while. Why is everything spinning? Ugh, too much
sicanban in a single go!

Based on the chapters we’d written, we were paired up for peer reviews. This is the feedback I got:

And here is my feedback for her content:

  1. Clarity: The concept is pretty clear.Some elaboration could help me understand how the city will function,since I was only provided with an overview of the concept and not the actual chapters.
  2. Relevance: Judging on the concept,it is relevant to the topic, but it could be more unique with some elements that are completely otherworldly. Since there are two people in the class having a concept based on colour, I recommend stepping up the game to make hers stand out more.
  3. Imagination: I did not have enough content to rate this properly. But the concept has a lot of possibilities and I suggested 2-3 things right off the bat which could maybe help.
  4. Basic grammar: Again,not enough content. But for when she actually writes the chapters, I think sticking to simpler words would suit her more instead of unnecessarily getting too wordy and confusing the audience.
  5. Total score: 1+ 1+ 1/2+1= 3.5 out of 10.

I showed my chpaters to the faculty. Here is the feedback I got:

I was told to firstly complete the book. As I am now reading, I realize why I was told to do so.I hadn’t read enough of it to explore all the different kind of elements I could still add. I was told to try and change the third person narrative to first person. Maybe the conversational tone of the chapters is unnecessary and creating confusion. Its leading to me telling the audience what my city looks like,instead of showing them.I also had to think of certain intangible elements that I could add to the cities. And finally, I was told to rethink the chapter names.

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