Guest column | From community bonding to building
East Lansing in Michigan, the abode of the Michigan State University, is a city of about 53,000 residents. The population declined by about 2,000 in three years as the glory of Detroit, the auto city, faded. A few years ago while visiting our daughter, we often took walks in the nearby woods and huge parks. We noticed that the parks and woods were free of filth and trash.punjab Updated: Jan 01, 2017 12:00 IST
East Lansing in Michigan, the abode of the Michigan State University, is a city of about 53,000 residents. The population declined by about 2,000 in three years as the glory of Detroit, the auto city, faded. A few years ago while visiting our daughter, we often took walks in the nearby woods and huge parks. We noticed that the parks and woods were free of filth and trash.
Maintaining such areas would not have been possible without public participation. This got validated when we saw a group of people, perhaps two to three families that included parents and children, all walking around with large bags collecting trash left by some less responsible people. They picked cans, napkins and plastic and stuffed them in the bags and put them in the dumpsters from where the local civic agency collected the garbage.
No law or diktat works well unless there is community participation. In Idaho Falls near the Yellowstone National Park in the US, where our older daughter lives, I saw two women tending to public gardens to keep them looking beautiful. Our daughter clarified that there are quite a few people who like to contribute to a cleaner environment. Community involvement is imperative to bring a faster and more effective change.
Back home, I had seen the result of community participation (shramdaan) in our pharma factory at Lalru near Chandigarh whenever employees and two expatriates, French and Spanish, collected trash or maintained the 24-acre compound.
In my younger days at Sainik School, Kapurthala, we participated in shramdaan (voluntary service) and cleaned up common spaces. The grounding was so intense that it remains even so, 55 years on.
Indian society lacks a community feeling. People are reluctant to join any group effort. The management of a city or the country can be improved through community participation whether it’s Swachch Bharat or road safety. The community, like any other institution, follows an established norm or culture.
When we moved to Panchkula 20 years ago, Sector 12 was still under development. The park surrounded by a few houses was full of wild growth and frequented by buffaloes, offering an unsightly view. A beginning was made and a small corpus was collected that led to the cleaning up of the park. Today, ours is one of best maintained parks in town.
The community bonhomie grew and women started meeting once a month for bhajan satsang besides the usual game of tambola. We celebrate Holi and Diwali with a pre-festival dinner. The evening comes alive with homegrown talent. Such activities make our sector the envy of many.
Recently, free yoga classes have become a bigger bonding experience for the community. Though yoga is the main activity, it has brought neighbours closer. Suddenly, our neighbourhood has extended by 150 metres and includes twice the number of families we knew than earlier. One thing leads to another and now the community plans to collect woollens for the needy.
The analogy of our sector can be replicated by others in the tricity. A happy and healthy community makes a beautiful city and a progressive nation.
How’s community bonding and building for a New Year resolution?
(The writer is a Panchkula-based freelance contributor)