‘If there was a big green space in my neighbourhood, if I had a place to go during this pandemic, I would quietly go there and sit. I would sit for hours and contemplate. I would lay down in the grass and hear the birds sing. I could stay alone because the nature would give me company. I could walk my dog in those lanes where there is enough space for all of us. Those big buildings and no open spaces in the city have confined us all inside these concrete walls. An overcrowded city is always vulnerable. This is more relevant now that this pandemic requires more space per person for everybody to be safe. During the 2015 earthquake, the situation was different. People came out and stayed together and faced the disaster together. Everybody wanted to be with one another because that gave them hope and relief. In this case, this is not possible because, social distancing is the main criteria for safety. I cannot not even imagine if both of these crises came together. How could we have even managed to cope with it.’
I have always been the type of person who thinks communities have the capability to strengthen, transform and be self-reliant in all aspects of life. Communities when work together can bring about giant leap in their existing condition. Should we always follow the global trend and mould our lives into identical identities or should be also shape our individuality?
This is a perfect time to reminiscence on evolution and life. The basic concept of food, shelter and clothing has been transformed to a level that this asset has been taken for granted. The online world has a huge role to play in this. Making technology available to use for the cause that are not for a progressive future is making our society fake day by day. Before when we did something we never thought if people are seeing us or if people are taking about my daily life. Now with the use of social media, people know about your daily life.
I see in social media, people flaunting their houses with large open spaces. They say that they have taken all the safety measures to stop the virus from entering their houses and closed their gates so that nobody can come close. This is a good practice. Of course, the idea is social distancing, no way anyone could invite over guests to their houses in such a crisis. But do they even consider letting a homeless enter their compound and at least shelter in the huge open ground they have. That is why public open spaces are even more vital at this moment. Those who have a lot of private land are closing everything and taking advantage of the privilege they have. Don’t flaunt your privilege in social media. Try to be compassionate and try to see the misery around you.
But there are these huge groups of people who have been selflessly contributing during the time of crisis to serve the most needy in the community. Community groups, youth groups who are involved in crises, feeding the poor, cooking and sharing, they could also contribute to the development of open spaces. As vital as food and shelter, mental well-being is important for a healthy life as recommended by WHO. For such wellbeing one needs fresh air, exercise, green areas and many such facilities that can only be provided in open spaces. At times like these and always open spaces are as important for the public. Open spaces in these contexts are not big open areas but small spaces in between the communities, where people can jog at a safe distance and smile and greet each other, where people can get some fresh air, where they can create these bonding which are vital for a healthy living. Maintaining social distance as a social being is not an easy task for us but we should try to bring solutions that can maintain our safety, at the same time, bring us together as community. We could share stories by writing on walls, we could leave messages, we could do the same activities at the same time but in our own house or in the terrace, there are many we could do to stay connected and motivated. This will surely bring the missing bond among the communities.
Maybe we can share our skills and help each other in need. May be someone is good at cooking and the other is good at plumbing, may be someone can take care of the garden we have made in the community open space. Someone could make their artwork and display in the open spaces. And someone could make some play areas and children could play in turn after properly sanitizing, may be someone who plays music could give concerts from their terrace and everybody can have a party from their home. Could we do all this? How could we do all this?
The neighbours were always together, but we were so busy that we never thought spending some time with them is important. But between those quick smiles, passing by in cars, seeing the light turned on in their rooms, seeing them walk their dogs, we always shared a special bond that only the place where we live in can provide. Let’s make these places and memories ours by appreciating and creating more opportunities for such encounters and interactions.
We will thrive and we will rise again. Let’s play our roles and contribute.