Should priorities be a function of cities?

By Ms. Jyotsna Joshi and voice over by Ms. Akanksha Seth

Few days back while having a routine conversation with my grandmother, wherein we discuss our well being and next in-line activities, the lady seemed excited about attending the upcoming family functions. In fact, all at home, based on their age group had some or the other plans about what all thru would do while at the wedding. While my grandmother was excited about the fact that she would be meeting her person a group of octogenarian ladies discussing the pace of their lives; my mother was eager to visit her parent’s home that was in the same city as the wedding venue. My sister was happy for an outing she would be getting amidst her busy work schedule, with a chance to don pretty dresses. I could sense the excitement in their tone as they showed me their wedding function purchase over the video call. Whilst engaged in the conversation, my grandmother asked me to visit a relative on the coming weekend, who lives in the same city as I. And this doesn’t come as a request, it came as an order! “Beta! You are already six months old to Bangalore and now you must visit Meera bua. They ask for you each time we talk to them.”

Now travelling in a metro city is an entire journey in itself. Meera bua stays in the Western corner of the city, while our home is at the eastern end. On a weekend, even at a very moderate traffic rate, it would take us around one and a half hours end to end, one side. Thankfully covid-19 restrictions are resulting in lighter traffic these days, otherwise travelling end to end between the said distances would anytime fetch more than two hours end to end; implying nearly five hours to and fro. Coupled with the good amount of time one spends at their relative’s place during any visit, it easily inferred that out entire day is gone. With these things running at the backstage of my mind I asked “Daadi, can I do a zoom call with Meera bua and you all can also join. This way all of us will meet together”. I had just said this and my granny gave me a scary look, enough to stop the chain of thoughts. I tried to reason with her saying that meeting relatives protocols vary from city to city. While in Nainital (our native place), one would visit some or the other family friend/relative almost every weekend, in Lucknow (where my parents stay) meeting people once a month is do-able. However in Bangalore, for a working couple, who anxiously awaits for the weekend to complete all the home tasks and take out some refreshing time for oneself, meeting relatives physically can take a back-seat. Though we may reach them out through call or WhatsApp, travelling all the way to just be with them, when time is scarce resource for you too, is not on cards. 

Another reason for so much gelling and mixing in small towns and tier two and three cities can be the nature of asset ownership they have. Most people in such places live in independent houses, in localities full of such houses. They basically witness a culture of exchange of things and discussions amongst each other on a routine basis. So much so, that often during family functions neighbour’s vacant rooms are asked for making a transit stay for additional guests. On the other hand, in metro or tier one cities, people live in flats/apartments, with limited connects between the neighbours. I can still recall the incoming of so many relatives at my parent’s place, round the year, mostly because of their affable nature. During summer breaks our home would be jam packed with all cousins arriving at our place. And my parents felt so happy about it. However in big cities when a person doesn’t find time for himself only, he has nothing to offer to anybody else. People have become increasingly individual centric. They now prefer staying in hotels than staying at their kin’s place. And this shift has been organic- resulting from lesser communication, increased distances, and greater consumption in one’s own unit.

At the end of my conversation with my grandmother, I realized that if we let the expanse of any city decide our priorities, it will always rule in favour of individual benefit. However of we weigh more on the human connects and emotional aspect of relationships built over time, we will favour it only. At the end of the day human being is an outcome of his thoughts.

The author is an economic development and policy consultant at KPMG Bangalore. Views expressed are entirely personal.

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