Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Time-Space Conundrum!

How complex the world must be for a baby! That's something anyone with any baby experience can sense, of course. But if you live with a toddler, you sense this allatime! Like when baby n loves a new place - jogger's park, goa, imax, anyplace nice - she often lies in repose back at home and remembers it. Then she turns to me and says, 'Where jogger's park gone?' I've never tried telling her that she has moved away and that jogger's park is where it always has been. So I tell her it's in Bandra, leading to the next inevitable question: 'Where Bandra gone?' And so on. It must be so tough to understand that the universe does not centre around you; that life is not an ever-changing parade of places and images arranged with you as the pivot!
The same goes for language. If walk is walked in the past tense, then send must be sended, draw must be drawed, and go must be wented. When people - and babies - learn a language (or acquire it in the case of babies) they tend to observe a rule, learn it and then overuse it. It is not a mistake, it is just them sussing out the language's rules and trying to see what works. In a while, they figure out things like 'exceptions to rules' and then get the required discretion to become perfect speakers! When n makes these mistakes, I just love it! I mean, how long before she throws a complicated new coinage at me and sneers when I say, "Huh? What's it mean?"
Speaking of nice places, why is it a nightmare to be able to access a nice public space in this city? Whole families are congregating in malls these days for lack of anywhere else to go. The parks that remain - like Diamond Garden in Chembur - are bizarrely anti-poor and anti-people. Recently renovated with corporate help, Diamond Garden actually doesn't allow people to sit on its lawns! Of course, there is no proportionate increase in the number of benches, and so you have people trying to sit on the park's play equipment (which is no great shakes, but let's not go there).
Try asking the people in charge why this is so and the biases start becoming clear. 'Arre, if you let them sit on the lawns, then they will get food here!' I don't see how that can happen because the guards don't let you bring in food anyway. Probe further, and you hear the words them and they used so vehemently and so often that you soon figure out who they are referring to - poor Muslim families from nearby Shivaji Park and Govandi, of course! They 'dirty' the space and 'annoy' the 'rest of us' so that around big holidays, the garden conveniently shuts itself down! We are also told that they have their own garden given them by the BMC; can they not stick there? Talk about wanting to ghettoize people!
Suggest that there are other alternatives than this sort of apartheid, that hygiene can be taught to the poor - Hindu and Muslim alike - that the middle class is equally messy and irresponsible, and that the city owes its people public spaces, and all you get is a big fat fight. In which prejudice takes top spot, I'm afraid.
In a city that is slowly cutting off itself from this responsibility, I wonder what options we have left. Where do the poor go for an evening out? To a mall? To an incredibly-expensive multiplex? As a parent I know how restless n gets with the same spaces. But where's the variety of open spaces in this city; what can you access without having to travel in killing traffic? If you don't live in a gated township with an enclosed park and pool, are you not entitled to these simple, inexpensive joys?
Between prejudice and the monstrous greed of the powers that be, the future looks bleak. Very bleak.

(Sorry, the post started with baby's sense of space and ended in public spaces - bit of wandering happened! But it's something I feel strongly about, so am not going to cut away and put in elsewhere!)

1 comment:

surabhi said...

once again anita, lovely post.