Community Photo Frame

April 03, 2008

Not long ago we went to Yercaud, (a hill station near Salem in Tamil Nadu) on a weekend trip. By the time we returned, I was totally in love with the place.

One reason for this was the scenic beauty, the greenery and the varied views that the place had to offer.

There was another reason why I was totally in love with the place. The town was a small one, and what surprised me was that everyone knew everyone else. (I know it cant be true about the whole of the town's 10,000 population, but still quite a few people).

We boarded a bus back from Yercaud to Salem. The bus conductor seemed to know most of the passengers in the bus. To one he would inquire if he was going to his brother-in-law's house in Salem. To another he would ask if the brother had started building his home. This in addition to almost all the shopkeepers whom this guy would wave out to and the other person would delightfully acknowledge with another wave of the hand.

Yes I would like to be a part of a community were each person would be known to the other. I don't like the anonymity that a city imposes on you.

Not long ago, at least in my locality, people knew each other. The next house aunty would know my score in English I and English II. You would mention any distant name and suddenly father would know where Mr X stayed in the locality, with a little work history. Suddenly with the growth of the city the same knowledge is now treated as gross bad manners and infringement of privacy.

In the race for work, we seem to have forgotten the concept of a community. Even 5-6 years back there would be annual cultural festivals held in the local ground, where the whole locality would gather and listen to an orchestra, a few games and general just strengthen the community thread.

Today, I don't know who stays diagonally across my house. You come to my locality and ask for a name 95% chances are that the enquiry would be met with a blank stare.

I still know my neighbours though; it is because they have remained the same for the last 15 years. But nothing more than that.

A city is a burial ground for the concept of a community.

I wish that when some fifteen years later, when it is the generation of my kids, something drastic happens and they grow up as a part of a community where each person knows not only his neighbour but more than that too, and not fall prey to modern race-horse work habits, and western idea of imposed politeness.

One incident yesterday brightened my face though. Yesterday had gone to a gift shop nearby. The lady there smiled and greeted me. She recognized me as the guy who stands at the corner of the road each day for the cab to pick me up for office every day. Spoke about the place. Some history of their shop, a general talk of work. etc etc. Maybe the community concept still had a few embers on.

A city doesn't give these things quite a chance.

Sathyanarayanan Chandrasekar is a coding monkey, working out of Bangalore. He rues the number of trees being cut in Bangalore in the name of road expansion, and the number of characters wasted in spelling his name. If left to himself he would refer to himself as the 'Kaiser'. He dreams of a day when IE would render his page without Javascript errors and CSS malfunctions. This and beyond he is a dreamer, and he says he is not the only one. He blogs here
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