Thursday, November 6, 2008

Close Indian Neighbors

For those living in the US who are used to cordial but occasional contact with neighbors, the experience in India can be quite revealing.

My in-laws (Daddy and Mummy) live in a closed apartment community in Pune, India which is called a (housing) "society". I have been struck by the warm and close interactions with neighbors in their society. This became even more evident recently.

A couple of times Mummy tried to walk and fell in the small hours of the morning, and Daddy wasn't able to get her back up. Their neighbors not only rushed to their help in those times but also rallied to monitor and care for them for several days subsequently.

I (and subsequently Anita) arrived from the US and had both my in-laws hospitalized. In the next several weeks they overcame a number of conditions on the road to recovery. In this time as well the close involvement of neighbors was striking. Some examples:
  • Some neighbors visited Daddy and Mummy in the rather distant hospital. Many more were intending to do so but heeded my request about no visitors so we could concentrate on their treatment

  • Immediate neighbors took charge, discontinued part-time help and stopped delivery of supplies, newspapers, etc., to my in-law's apartment during their hospital stay. I hadn't anticipated any of this in the midst of the medical emergency

  • After their return home, Daddy and Mummy had streams of visiting neighbors to welcome them back. Many brought along children or grandchildren to help cheer them up. I was impressed seeing these kids under 10 years of age patiently and respectfully spending time with my in-laws when they could be doing more fun things elsewhere

  • Many came forward with local information and advice that was helpful to us in making arrangements and settling my in-laws back down

  • This Mira Society has over a thousand residents, yet a third of them seemed to know about our predicament, and who I was. I'd cross and greet apparent strangers walking in the internal streets here and they'd stop me to ask about my in-laws, and how long I planned to remain in Pune

Life in Mira Society is of course not typical of that in other places. In Delhi and Mumbai we see neighbor interactions that more closely mirror those in the urban US.

My in-laws have stayed in Mira Society for over 30 years, and I can understand their reluctance to move to a service apartment as we have urged, that is more suited to elderly care.

The other remarkable thing is the way Anita's extended family came together to our help. I'll describe some of that in the next post.


Anonymous said...

The rule in the west is "good fences make good neighbors." But in certain parts close community bonds develop, and in those parts, life expectency takes a big jump up. Life magazine outlined the places where people live to 100 and the 7th day adventist church groups that lived together experienced high life expectency for that reason.


Sandip Madan said...

Well said, Kenrod. To those of us used to living in the West, some neighbor interactions may seem intrusive. But we welcome the close communal living in Mira Society, and view it as a huge positive on the whole.