The great Indian neighborhood

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I love living in India for one reason - the camaraderie you share with the neighbors that makes you feel alive and human. Every evening when I returned from work, I would knock at my neighbor's door to say a 'hello' despite all the tiredness and the drudgery of the long day. A smile on her face and a little chit-chat was always such an effective stress-buster that no other outlet could ever provide.

Life outside India : The 13 months that I lived in Chicago, I never knew who lived next door, forget knowing their names. Initially, it was a creepy feeling that I got over slowly. Some habits die hard and so did the curiosity of seeing my neighbor's faces. For the first few months, every time I heard the doors closeby open/shut I would race to my door and peep thr the eyehole to get a glimpse. Call me the nosy prying Indian or whatever you like. But this was result of the lack of a social circle and interaction with somebody human after returning home from work! This is one reason I would never want to settle down in US where you fix appointments to meet friends!

The article titled There goes the neighborhood in last week's Hindu was an eyeopener that showed where our metros such as Bangalore, Pune with a burgeoning IT population and a cosmo culture are headed.

Continue reading 'The great Indian Neighborhood..

Reads the article ---

There is a an Oriya family next door, two Tamilian families in the floors below me and the couple who are supposed to work day and night at a call centre. I can't remember any of their names. True, they were all there for our housewarming, but we never seem to have progressed since then.

I blamed myself for moving into an apartment, which cocoons people into their own private cells. Then along came a friend who was from a part of a city that still has something resembling a neighborhood. I asked her how much she interacted with her neighbors. Pat came the reply: "A smile here and there... That too if they and I have the time."

Blame it all on the lifestyle : How many of you know the names of your neighbors? Intercoms and Yahoo! groups have conveniently replaced face-to-face conversations in apartments - the concrete jungles! The article is true to an extent while I lived in Bangalore. But I don't agree with it completely. People are quick to respond that there is no time during the week for meaningless conversations. Juggling between their high flying careers, working erratic hours and making time for their kids and finally for their immediate social cicrcle during the weekends keeps their plates and calendars full!

But doesn't the onus lies on us to create that special bond and take the first step. I have been fortunate enough to have gem of a neighbor every place we've lived in. One of the first things I always do after moving into a new place is to go and knock on my neighbor's door and get introduced. nothing breaks the ice as this. Rather than staring sheepishly and peeking thr eye holes or indulging in nosy gossips, this works! It sure is an effort but one that is worth every penny.

The article further states --

"Back during my childhood days, anything at home would see a horde of neighbors drop in. Even if a neighbor's relative was getting married, a representative from our house would make it a point to register our presence. I still live in the same house today, but somehow I have not managed to forge the same relationship with the same neighbors," says Vijaya Sunder, 26, a resident of Malleswaram

Open house :I'm reliving my childhood days when we lived in a small colony where everyone knew everyone else, kids played together, slept over at other's places if parents went on an emergency and you don't have think twice before dropping in a for a cup of coffee unannounced without an appointment.

The apartment we live in now has all the characteristics of a small colony - its so touching when the uncle next door enquires about my health every morning or offers to collect the medical report and goes that extra mile every time. We have a open door policy here. During the days no one closes the doors. So kids in the neighborhood are welcome anytime of the day. When I'm bored to death, I just drop in to listen to stories from the granny who stays opposite. Festivals have been fun too like Diwali and Holi when all of us pool in and burn crackers or play holi together. More the number, more the fun!

One night recently around 11:30 p.m. I was in pain and mom was about to knock at our neighbor's door when I stopped her. She got an earful the next morning from our neighbors when they got to know and the aunty remarked, " Laksh belongs to the current generation. Don't you listen o her. just don't think and knock at our door whatever time of the night it is. what are neighbors for."

That spoke volumes. It is just a perception that the apartment culture is not healthy and has driven people into their private cells. Its more to do with the lifestyle and the attitude the current generation carries. In the current nuclear family setup in metros it is not possible to spend enough time during the year with immediately family and relatives as they are scattered around the world. So it feels all the more good if you live amongst nice people. Along with consumerism and other traits of modern day, we have conveniently given up simplicity and carefree attitude that we were once proud of! Its upto us to take forward those days what we cherished in our childhood.