The city is my home: How do I influence it?

I won’t bore you with statistics about how many people will live in cities by 2050. For many of us, the city has been home since we were born and the only existence we can possibly imagine is urban.

When I was a child, most books we read (Enid Blyton, for instance) idealised the rural life, described the country as the epitome of health and good living, while the city was portrayed as somewhere some of us had to live to earn a living. In the last three-odd decades since I have roamed this earth, urban lives and urban writing have taken centre-stage and the country life is something reserved for short idyllic holidays.

So this extension of our neighbourhood into our friends’ neighbourhoods, this city is in fact an extension of our home. In every sense, we embrace this large social and physical space as our own. We relate to it, love parts of it, criticise bits and pieces, certainly opine on it. And yet, we feel no sense of control over its destiny the way we feel over that of our home. It is this gap that city governments have failed to fill while failing in nearly all aspects of governance. And while the lack of infrastructure and civic amenities are what draw most flak, what we are secretly complaining about is this total disconnect between our lives and the theatre in which we play our lives out, the city.

I’m not saying the onus of bridging the gap lies with governments alone. Civic society can also initiate this. However, as we have seen with Anna Hazare’s campaign, civic movements gain much momentum but require government support and understanding to realize the ultimate objectives.

Its about shaking hands then and putting heads together, collaboration and PPP and what have you. All these wonderful concepts that are yet to stand the test of time in the tricky turf of collaboration between the public and the private.

I’m still seeking my own personal answers to how I can engage with my city. Participate in its improvement just as I, from time to time, clean my home or paint it. After all, the city is my home too, on whose streets my children roam and whose community shapes their thought processes. Do you think making efforts to find ways for us citizens to play a part in the city’s destiny is worth our time? Do let me know; would be glad to find support and more defined thoughts on this.

About ramblinginthecity

I am an architect and urban planner, a writer and an aspiring artist. I love expressing myself and feel strongly that cities should have spaces for everyone--rich, poor, young, old, healthy and sick, happy or depressed--we all need to work towards making our cities liveable and lovable communities.

Posted on April 12, 2011, in Politics & Citizenship. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The time when Enid Blyton put pen to paper is long behind us. It was a time when work was seen as a means to achieve a better life, as opposed to becoming the center of our life with all else revolving around it. Today, our pace of life is so accelerated, people are losing sight of what quality of life truly means. Does it mean the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water or pollute both resources with four cars for a family of 2.5? Does it mean no enforcement of smoking laws even though the rate of asthma in new generations continues to rise?
    I believe bridging the gap in engaging with your city starts with engaging with your community. The government is after all an elected body of representatives. I’m a great believer in power of the people. Apathy on a societal level is what needs to change.
    Insightful and thought-provoking post!

  2. I totally agree with you that civic participation in maintaining and improving one’s city would be useful and satisfying. After all one’s outer and inner spaces are not all that distinct and I for one have for a long time felt very uneasy in living an aesthetic inner life in the face of unbelievable ugliness without. Children begging at every traffic light, a maimed beggar standing with an outstretched hand while I am trying to slurp an ice-cream at a roadside eatery, navigating puddles and rubbles while making my way to an Italian fashion store and so much more . . . The list is long.
    I read about an enterprising woman in Vasant Kunj who turned a waste patch behind her house into a garden. The patch was being used as a rubbish dump. Maybe we need to have volunteer groups in every colony who will show others the way. To get started, I would need some guidance.

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