We were suddenly aware of each other.
It had started to rain. Joggers park, Bandra ( west) in Mumbai builds a canopy, a temporary shed, over its circular tracks in the monsoon. So, that people can huddle together if it rains.
And it did yesterday evening. And so, people converged onto the sheltered space. It was a special get-together. Strangers, old pensioners, toddlers, resident cats, couples, singles, teenagers, new parents, resident foreigners. And without any shared agenda, here we were, sharing the same space. The toddlers were the leaders. For them, everybody was one big family! They were moving around.They were on their knees, stroking the cats, and inventing a game at the snap of a finger!
Somehow, the rest did not reach out for their familiar refuge, their cell phones. They watched the kids. And smiled…
All of us were simply inspired to “be” in the moment. How rare, how exquisite.. This togetherness without reaching out for something. It is the feeling of community.
It stopped raining. The connection broke. We all wandered off.
Bandra ( West) experiments with ‘Equal Streets’, an initiative where Linking Road, a prominent road, is closed for traffic and becomes a social space for around four hours, every Sunday. People love it. On the roads, a street scene, a social sphere is created. People cycle, do yoga, paint, dance, play music, you get the picture. They recreate the same feeling of community. The initiative, and the commercial interests (and there are a few) involved remind me of Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer, his literary child.
Tom Sawyer’s assigned work is to white-wash the fence. He makes it out to be such a fun thing that his friends pay him for the privilege of whitewashing the fence! We live a life so wrapped up in material comforts on islands that exclude us from each other. And then after starving ourselves silly, we pine for the feeling of community, for that connection.
The smart businesses of today, and tomorrow are being like Tom Sawyer. They make us pay out of our pockets for an experience that is ours for the asking. They bring together the occasion, the materials, the resources, and the setting. And we whitewash the fence!
Meanwhile, the canopy at Joggers park lies out there waiting. It isn’t raining.