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.