Where do we start in trying to understand our communities? This is particularly relevant when we have multiple identities and affiliations, being an insider to many communities and at the same time, an outsider to many more. To a personal reflection by a fellow blogger on how the sense of community is different in India from those in the US, what I have to say is that we need eyes that can look deep and a mind that’s ready to take complexity. In this blogpost, I use communities not in the sense of those that are made of ‘others’, those we work with. Rather, I am referring to the communities where we live, those around you and I, whom we interact with in our day-to-day lives – those around us giving us a sense of being in a community.
First of all, the India you see is hardly a microcosm of the rest of the country. But given that no one can really see a truly representative sample, perhaps we need to look deeper at the crowd we get to see. In the crowd that I get to see for instance, there is the neighbourhood vegetable seller who usually smiles at me and tens of others who look through me as I walk by. I too am usually not really processing anything other than what I need to while getting from Point A to B. So its mutual, I understand and that’s the way life is. That’s the way life is for many others on my route.
I do also see many others who know many more people on their route as they walk along, exchanging nods and smiles. And there are times and places where I behave completely differently and get a wide variety of responses.
The couple of years I was in Ghana, people would often greet me on the streets. So would people at my workplace. The year I spent in the UK was probably when I would hear passersby wish me the most frequently; notwithstanding the tube rides where no one made eye contact, which I was actually perfectly fine with.
Communities are important and communities are diverse in nature. India has millions of variations of this community and so does the US, I am sure. And these differences will remain and are important, not so much between countries, but within the communities that make up these countries.