Smart Neighborhoods

I am certain that since the time Modi-wave swept past a ‘aam aadmi’ movement to sideline a government that had held reins of power in India for most part since independence, our common man buoyed upon a social media world is getting smarter, more involved, more aware than ever before to choose, elect, praise and critique leaderships but do we all act with propriety when faced with day to day challenges around our own homes?

Satellite cities around our metros are giving way to smart cities. Environment and Climate Change is now a name of a  Ministry, Renewable Energy is a sector where India actually dominates in some areas, ‘cleanliness’ is a national campaign and men doing house work as wives go to work is an acceptable situation. But the unmanageable increase in motor vehicles, inadequacy of infrastructure to hold the boom times is pitiful and we come home or reach our office with anger, abuses and what not more times than ever before.

My colony was to have RWA elections recently and what I present are some lessons from this otherwise annual exercise which till now, I just let pass. In case you don’t know, it stands for your local ‘welfare association’ but if you are a modern household you might say “man, if I meet my wife and kids adequately I am lucky”. So you might have missed out on your RWA.

But to think what you could contribute to your locality’s welfare might be a sensible idea if you wish to be safe and healthy in daily living too. RWA’s were for supposed to be for retired old people, which I almost am; except that our generations now do not retire at 55 or 60 and if ‘senior citizen should be 60 or 65 has also become debatable as more Indian people are catching the Volvo buses to see overseas cities as the white people who used to throng India gate and Chandni Chowk and the local gyms are running overtime.

But seriously, what do we have in stake with our immediate neighborhood that never was before? So this is what I am learning from this RWA election time. Posters, door-to-door is passe. For the first time, a ‘whatsapp group’ was started. But in the very first hour majority of comments came like “How dare you put me in this group without my permission” and somebody pressed the button and “left”. One of the ‘teams’ contesting the election put up a poster and more left, “This is politics, cheating and self-advertising” said many and they left. Whoever was the administrator he added more; then more left. Finally all teams were allowed to put up ads, so more added and more left.

Anyway, with the IPL going on; this was more exciting and as the language turned crass and gross, I thought I must join; the age old competitive corporate honcho in me did my diplomatic best not to side with any team. But hey, I was learning how masses think and then watching the fantastic levelling of ideas to  the “left” people reducing and administrator adding many now and then – it is coming as a revelation how much we can achieve if we dare to just get into the ‘system’ of having a say in our surroundings. I was seeing this process of debate and development go on and I have seen (‘heard’ is better) both in past – people doing good for the colony and then the system’s own goons of self-fulfilment.

So, with this logic; now as a infrastructure consultant I had been following some seminars and reading about “smart cities”, clean water & sanitation and having spent much time in Africa even for issues of gender disparities. But here I suddenly see a whole new opportunity in disparities that are more immediate to warrant a new age of “smart neighborhoods”. Well, this is a fairly elite colony beyond the choicest of words for opposing teams that I am seeing on ‘whatsapp’; so there lies a logic in its economics too.

But to cut across the story, what is it that we can contribute to the neighborhood and the neighborhood to us? Here are some points that I can see emerging from the 24×7 comments coming now that they seem to have let all have a say and mind you the young, women and intellectuals are in good numbers.

AWARENESS: You may be receiving RWA newsletters and information along with your rolled newspaper in morning. Even if you do not read it normally, keep at least a leaflet with contacts of RWA active members stuck to your refrigerator notice board. If you notice things that bother you – suspect movements, choked drains, water issues, etc. note it on Android notepad or send it to your specific area or lane representative as a paper note on way to office.

SMART RWAs: A social media group like “whatsapp” is a modern necessity but take care that jokes, lame forwards, business adverts and anything abusive or derogatory should be strictly banned and the person, after a warning, should be removed. Keep the good old register of complaints and files; but sir, times are that you ought to boost it with digital diaries with categorized logs which an IT youngster in neighborhood can easily design as contribution and a team member can maintain; all these at a dedicated office with timings of physical presence of attendant.

SMART HOMEOWNERS: Install CCTVs and inform RWAs, who must keep log of who has installed where. A GPRS plot can easily be created on webapp or procurable software to map location of the CCTVs of government and homeowners. This will help in solving criminal and other activities. Plotting troubled areas will be an advantage. Make sure servant details are kept and shared with RWA if not the police. Keep a hired security if you can or smarten up your main door operation at least to whatever is affordable technology and check weekly. You can store info on ‘cloudspace’ as well.

SMART POLICING: Each individual is police, but do not do that to extent of being a peeping Tommy. There is no point cursing abuses when you cannot take car past point where double or triple parking, like around general stores, paan shops, etc.; if it is really repetitive, log it with RWA digitally and take a walk on Sunday to verify if your messages actually get logged.

RWA’s SMARTOFFICE: Initially people will flood you with odd complaints and you might go nuts, there is very good chance that if you actually send a few replies and solve a few the deluge will trickle to something reasonable – so importantly HAVE FAITH in your neighbors, all are not worst enemies you think they might be. Also, you need not address each issue immediately. Instead categorise, prioritize, put through for weekly or monthly meetings depending on level of urgency. Hence I mooted for digital logging that is indexed as a decision making tool. Now, these are not expensive set-ups; but like any office these are a standard, need regular attention and some passion ‘to serve’ – so just wake up to this reality of times!

SMART LEADERSHIP: A colony where everybody is muscle and don will be a non-starter to be risk and damage-free. So treat this like another office of trust but remember that since all are volunteers, you cannot shout and throw out anybody from his job; so your big daddying will be for nothing. Humour, a few tea parties with biscuits by RWA brass here and there are fine but refrain from big time parties where barbecue smell goes beyond your house as again – people will point fingers and you lose face for just your large heartedness. Instead visit the aged, intellectuals, professionals within locality than professionals out of your business or workplace for advice, record keeping, etc. This is the art and ability of good leaders to make their own locality see you as humble servicing individuals and please….you are not a politician or civil servant; but truly passionate and concerned for safe & happy living around your responsibility.

This is not an exhaustive essay on the subject and there is a lot more that each one of us has and we all, with our freedom with social media, familiarity with technology and social networking around our place of abode can make our lives safer, simpler, less accusative, less abusive, less controversial and it will be this HABIT that will make us better in our professions too and as human beings, citizens of our country.

So, all the best for your “smart neighborhood”

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A Wonderful World – New Delhi Diary Part 3

It’s a Wonderful world after a winter of discontent as summer breaks in and we encapsulate a huge turnaround of world events in 2016-17 and should it be a lesson that it is the times that dictate how we, the people of the world elect anybody to any office of importance. But the song never changes!

There used to be this dream where all hell seemed to be happening, nothing seemed to be as I would wish it to be and I was where I just did not want to be. Yet it went on and on. Then there would come a point where I was just wanting for the dream to end and I would find myself half awake saying “oh, the morning is not so far away; it’s just a dream and it will all be over”. Thereafter truly, it was like God intervened and “snap”, presto – I was awake! The bed was still the one that was mine and world order too was mine, very much the way I would ever want it to be.

The other day I met this man and just as he was leaving he said the customary “let’s meet again” gesture where my own response was automatic and habitual “inshallah” which had no religion in it really.

But I immediately felt an odd wave surge within me saying that suddenly the world had changed and so by habits I ought to be careful. Then just today the “Navratras” got over and after week of veggies and half-fasts we went out at as a family to splurge on Naan, paneer and soya chops as we ‘feared’ having tandoori chicken tikkas may be too sudden and harsh. I could almost see my late father rise from ashes with a questioning look “what hey, we used to run for tandoori chicken this day!” and I found myself saying in defense “oh, it was a Tuesday”.

There is no question that the world has changed and so, the way we are thinking is leaving us generally clear thinking educated folks perplexed. Whether it happened from a Trumpy US, a chaotic middle east or closer home to saffron rising in another bread basket of unexpected modernity, I don’t know. All I know is I am first of a generation of Indians born after independence so must think as that! We have led our lives on the cusp of everything from West to East, border to across, house to house, person to person, day to day, period to period and found no need at all to be on ‘one’ side of it all.

My childhood was spent on the edge of the walled city now famous as “Delhi 6”. We took everything as privileged. Example, my folks never considered our locality Daryaganj on Shah Jahaan’s walled zone as ‘old’ Delhi and it was certainly not “New” Delhi because it was at the point of separation called “Delhi Gate”. My uncles wrote and spoke Urdu mixed with Hindi and vice versa and could write some of each, even as they would swear in both English and Hindi, whereas the Urdu was for tehzeeb, meaning courtesy.

My generation added slang and punch to every punchline and courteous abuse, just as every next generation would for sure – to make life colorful but never abusive. We had the Jaini, the Sikh, the muslim and the odd Parsi who lived in seclusion (Delhi still is never Mumbai!). We could hear neighbors fight and we fought them at will. The next day things would patch up. My parents never approved the way others lived and we silently accepted even virtual the enemy. No one ‘told’ us who to meet and who to befriend and so we did that too openly and brashly – romancing the enemy with tehzeeb than with bad blood. The movies too had a well defined hero, heroine and villain but always happy endings.

Honestly rivalries too are part and parcel of ‘acceptance’ of a world order I have happily lived, or outlived I will know much later;  but I find it unfair to hear now some people say that past was wrong and ought to be changed. You mean sir, that to make a better today and tomorrow, we need to revisit past and change ‘history’? Was I a bloody fool to sit in a boring History class in school and now I must rationalize that I have truly lived a life in manner that was actually unacceptable. Honestly, would changing a story of a freedom fighter in school text books make our next of kin smarter and more ready to face the world order that shall be hereon?

Suddenly a world order seems to change and future looms like the streets and walls in “Inception”, the movie as a bad dream I must reverse somehow. A young friend gone saffron finds need to find the Hindu within and suggests my Ram is different from his (I love to sing bhajans, devotional music and pray when I feel like). An old Kashmiri friend is never the same for lack of the colorful musalmaniyat and tehzeeb that added to the flavor. I hate suggestions coming of a day when habitual Moghlai foodies and international travelers of my country will look dumbstruck as good old chicken and mutton platters may need license to be served.  Okay, if it’s just about clean-up of abattoirs, then I am fine!

I walk past bylanes of Lajpat Nagar in New Delhi to familiar ‘pathani’ faces but it’s just that I am noticing things I have never needed to notice until now. Now I am looking for a Iraqi, Irani, Kashmiri, Indian or North East from a new world order that will never restore, just like my dream. Back in college days we just ate Tibetian, but never questioned why they colonized out there on outskirts of DU or the Bangladeshis who got the now elite Chittranjan Park for ownerships as gift from our government.

Yehudi Menuhin was a musician and suddenly I can relate myself to what he said in “the ethos of a country is reflected in the kind of music it listens to”. Similarly I think, bad dreams are a reflection of our worst fears and when what we once feared has already happened and gone past, all mornings shall be beautiful.

So I say, “aahh” – all miseries of this world are the result of the electronica and melodyne auto-tuner music. So I get away from the unending dream to my morning of digital keypads, virtual drummers and symphony, microphone and lyrics, to make a song, record an idea, post some farce that has potential to be a fact provided it gets heard amidst the din of a ‘today’ that is not Delhi 6 – midway between what ‘ought to be’ and what we honestly love. Isn’t future a product of our present and don’t they know “Back to the Future” was only a Hollywood idea?

John Lennon sits by the roadside as I drive past Delhi roads which are seemingly still unchanged where the old Beatle is singing with a guitar in hand, no more the band around him, as he sings – “I’m just watching the wheels go round and round….I just love to watch them roll…no longer riding on the merry-go-round….aaanhh!”

Doing this, I don’t need belonging to any political party, group or cult or being imposed to any one or the other idea of a world order that ‘ought to be’. All the same I agree with my parents to just accept them for their co-existence ‘like neighbors’ and I will twirl all kinds of flags like I did as a boy; simply for their diversity of colors, tones and lyrics within. Somewhere too, it is now the ‘history’ and ‘literature’ classes that I seemed to remember more than the science and it was all of these together that give me my ‘current assets’ – enough for a wonderful world.

Mysite : please visit my new website https://yogeshbahadur.wordpress.com  and other related reads on wordpress.com :

Waiting to be Trumped ?

The story of TECH retrograde in India

New Delhi Diary – 2

New Delhi Diary – 1

 

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