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No breaks in urban India

As more and more people move into big cities in search of jobs or education opportunities, they compromise heavily on community life. Less time with family, no time for leisure and strangers for neighbours, writes Abhijit Patnaik. The curriculum for young India | Full coverage

india Updated: Dec 03, 2013 02:28 IST
Abhijit Patnaik

One of the first casualties of the increasingly fast-paced life in urban India is community life. People have less and less time to spend with family, neighbours or friends. Pressures at work and responsibilities at home have eaten into people's leisure time across the board.

As our urban jungles have grown, cramming more and more people into its limited spaces, avenues for a meaningful community life itself are growing scarce. Much has been written on how public spaces in big cities are few and far between.

According to an exclusive HT-GfK Mode survey, 37% people think that cities lack facilities for a meaningful community life. In this regard, people in smaller towns are happier, with 64% in mini-metros saying they are happy with facilities such as cultural centres, parks and clubs.

Unsurprisingly, it is the need for open spaces such as parks which tops the wishlist of urban dwellers. As many as 45% people across India said these would help build community living, while 14% nationwide say sports facilities are what is needed. Kolkata, with its many public parks, stands out, with the majority (53%) asking for more cultural centres.

Hanging out
One of the most crucial elements of a healthy social life is getting to spend quality time with family and friends. The survey reveals that citizens of big metros such as Delhi and Mumbai are not entirely happy with the amount of time they spend with these two groups. Twenty-one per cent of metro residents said they don't get to spend enough time with family, compared with only 6% in mini-metros.

Big cities have been seeing a decline in another component of community life - being friends with your neighbours.

"I completely agree that there has been a decline in one's interaction with neighbours over the past few decades. This is perhaps due to the modern professional scenario where MNCs mean round-the-clock job timings and constant mobility," said Nivedita Basu, 32, who teaches English at Kirori Mal College, Delhi University.

"Neighbours are hardly permanent residents with whom you could grow and get attached to. People change houses far more frequently due to greater affluence. Also, the nuclear family system has had its psychological impact in making us more 'privacy' loving individuals," she added.

Also, 28% people across India said they rarely meet their neighbours, with the figure higher in metros at 34%.

On a different note, geographical mobility is high in urban India, with a quarter of metro respondents saying that they had moved cities. Half of them had done so for better job opportunities, while 27% had moved looking for better education for their children.

Read more: The curriculum for young India