Sunday, October 26, 2014

Know Your Neighbor!

You can have a good neighbor only if you are a good neighbor by yourself...Howard E. Koch

Howard E. Koch was an American playwright and screenwriter who were blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in the 1950s for portraying communism through his plays. Well, on the background of cold war the above sentence must have been taken wrongly by the typical USA minds but it’s applicable perfectly to our flat culture today in India! What made me remember this quote is a small incidence happened in my own apartment building. Like any other society we too have a notice board in our building’s entrance lobby which usually displays hand written notices about water cuts & lift maintenance timings by our efficient society secretary. Recently while coming back from the work a neatly typed letter on the notice board caught my attention & I paused to read it as it looked like something different than a notice. It was a short note or letter addressing to all the residents by a family which was living on rental basis, a floor below mine & has just moved out to some other premise. They have wrote about wonderful experience of the apartment during their some four year long stay in our building & now they are moving at another place & they will miss the people here & thanked all residents for making their stay in our building, a beautiful experience! It was so simple yet touching gesture that I read it again & clicked a snap of that letter in my cell & thought of messaging the man from that family about the letter & then I realize that I don’t have cell number of the man neither the letter has their new address! I have met the family’s members hundreds of the time in the lift, in parking & in the lobbies at all hours of the day. I have shared weather talks & smiles on way down or up in the lift with them yet in all these years I couldn’t even asked them for their any contact number, the thought really made me feel very guilty rather shameful about myself; as what kind of a neighbor I had been to them!

This is the cause rather topic of our sharing as how much we know our neighbors? Those who are resident of Pune since their childhood, I mean the genre of my age who remembers famous “Wada or Chawl” culture of this city where every one used to know every one! There were no secrets in any home right from whose daughter is getting married with whom to which husband wife don’t get along & result of a boy appeared for Matric i.e. 10th, was known to entire galli even before the parents knows it! Every smallest thing was shared around rather becomes public, such was the community living. People weren’t afraid in going to outstation & no safety doors or CC TV cameras were required in the homes for security. No need of keeping emergency alarm or some important phone numbers list was there & as it was era without cell phones so emergency number speed dialing was out of imagination! Terms like security services or watchman were unheard; all the security of entire mohalla or galli i.e. by lane was a lone gourkha, shouting “jagte raho” that too at night!  Even tenets also were considered as part of the community & treated with equal affection & respect. There weren’t any society formations needs or managing committees; no circulars were necessary for getting residents together & no notice board was required. Yet those were the safest times in term of security of the community in totality as every one used to watch everyone unintentionally! 

And why Pune city, all of us who have come from smaller towns have similar experience with our childhood as home wasn’t restricted to the four walls we resided in but it’s the entire surrounding which made our home! And that’s why this city was supposed to be the safest amongst all top cities in the country & trust me it wasn’t far back on time scale.

Agreed sometimes it was a bit irritating with no private life at all yet most of us who has experienced it will vouch that there was real fun & that was real community living then! But the concepts of life were different & sharing was the main object of life. And this sharing wasn’t limited to just commodity things like grocery or furniture but the emotions were shared too, which was most important aspect of that life! No problem was considered of any individual family & joy was also of the entire cluster. Festivals were celebrated together & so were any functions from the family. Illness of someone in family was matter of concern for everybody & elderly person’s as well small kids were responsibility of entire community! Here no one was left alone to face his problems; a real society without any necessity for a legal title was in existence!

Come to our present tense, recently one hording by Pune Police caught my attention, there was a big eye painted & the tag line said “Use your vison”, means be alert & inform any wrong thing you feel happening around to the police. With all due respect to good intentions of the police force I wonder with present mind set of the people i.e. me myself & my family, how many of them will ever notice any wrong thing happening around! As who has the time or attitude to look around? As such is the situation that we know everything happening across the globe on a click but we don’t know the name of the family which resides next to our flat! Why in next flat we rarely don’t know what’s happening our next room where our kids are busy in their own virtual world! This might sound dramatic but that’s the fact of modern times. Even if you see the advertises of new projects which are being launched, it mentions three side open homes with total privacy & no one will be able to have a look in your home or few of them goes to a extent saying “presenting no neighbor homes”! We have tall sky scrapers with glass windows & showing us 180-360 degree view of horizon but we can’t see who lives adjoining to us! And when we can’t see who lives adjoining to us then where comes the question of whether we knows his  or her needs or emotions, as who cares for it? We have our plush lobbies, privacy, interiors and gadgets connecting us to globe but do mind we have no gadget which can connect you with your neighbor! All one has to do for that is just take a step out of our own door & push the bell on adjoin door & greet him with just a gentle smile! Unfortunate as for many this one step seems to be more costly than round ticket of the world tour. And then we need twenty four hours security, cc tvs, safety doors, intercom to security cabin, different safes in our bedrooms & all sorts of modern techniques which are like a price we are paying for our no neighbor home! Agreed there are some odd societies or complexes which do have maintained the wada culture by having gatherings together but how many such numbers are there in comparison to the numbers of buildings around is the question I will like to ask?

Many will say what real estate can do about it? Is it not the need of the people itself which we are responding? We can’t build wadas or chawls & ask people to live in them today! I don’t say go back & start living in chawl or wada as it has its drawbacks & times have changed; but at the same time when we change it don’t mean leave everything behind & move on. Here role of real estate is very much important as we are developers & let’s understand the true meaning of developer! We develop societies so we need to know true meaning of the term society for that, if we want to stand to the tag we proudly carry along! What we call a society is not just cluster of buildings & its luxurious specifications but it’s the people living in those building which makes the society! It’s these people we should work up on while we plan & develop the buildings which we conveniently rather wrongly call societies! No one says build some thing with no privacy as in today’s carrier oriented rat race life everyone needs some calm & quite moments of his own but that doesn’t mean cutting off from the people you live amongst. 

Man is a social animal & naturally his residences we can’t cut off from other men! There has to be places right from the lobbies to corners to courtyards where we should provide spaces to socialize & most importantly right from beginning make them understand the true object of living in a society. We are not making some one live alone or ask to live on footpath but a perfect balance between both has to be strike & your efforts has to make known to the person who is your client. This I call making your customer know philosophy behind your creation; as unless you have a dialogue with your customer & make him aware about such aspects of life how he will be carrying it forward when he goes & live in the building you have created! Once the person who is going to live in our buildings understands essence of community living then many problems which we face today are taken care in advance. And they are right from security concerns to society monthly maintenance charges disputes, which are major day to day hassles of today's so called societies!

It’s on this front role of real estate is going to be very vital as what kind of society we will be building depends up on us only & for that need is to cultivate the culture which will get people together. There only lies the hope of a better society where the residents will be at real comfort & peace; as these are the specifications of life which no money can buy but we only have to earn it!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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