ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Walking in the City

The Indian sense of privacy is mediated through personal friendships and kin networks, in contrast to the exaggerated politeness of the West.

The other day, walking out of the parking lot at my local metro rail station in Gurgaon, I was almost run over by a car whose driver was wriggling his way in. He could clearly see there was very little space between me and a haphazardly planted metal rod at the exit. He had two options – he could stop to let me through so I wouldn’t have to step into a puddle or he could run me over with his vehicle. As he wasn’t about to stop, I took the safer option of stepping into the puddle. The car passed me at an ambling speed, the driver’s eyes met mine and he drove on – it was as if nothing at all had happened.

If I think of this event in combination with one that is of national significance, I am forced to consider the odd nature of the “public” in our fast-growing cities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently exhorted us to rid our public spaces of garbage by taking responsibility for the waste we generate. On 2 October, I noticed a motley group of citizens – a vice chancellor, university students, NCC cadets, members of political parties – enthusiastically wielding brooms all over the city. The next day, 3 October, the garbage was back on the very same streets and footpaths that had just been cleaned.

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