My father, being a government employee, had to move frequently from town to town. Once, he found himself settled in one specific area, where he then bought a piece of land.
The man who sold the land also sold all his parental property in a rush. Our neighbours, along with my father, also bought lands from him. None of them cared that over hundreds of kids in that town used to play in those lands. They cleared the little bit of shrubbery and vegetation, cut down all the trees, filled the cultivable lands with sand. Literally stripping the area.
What happened to all those kids? No one ever asked. When there were trees, fields, ponds, the kids used to run around and play.
The pond helped us learn how to swim and catch fish. We knew each other, and each other’s families. We used to quarrel with each other to the point when our families had to get involved in the matter. But there was life in that neighbourhood.
Hardly any Ramadan went by without sharing iftar with our neighbours. It is saddening that I am writing this in the past tense now. It was considered indecent to return those iftar plates empty. So, we used to return them with more food in our own plates. And, therefore, the transaction never ended.
These exchanges happened every time any family in the neighbourhood cooked something they recently harvested, or something they thought was good enough to share. I mean, if you could smell it in the air, you would know that something is coming to your house.
Be it khichuri, polao, or payesh, you wouldn’t miss it if it was being cooked on the hearth of your neighbours.
Some of us kids would often invite ourselves to our neighbours’ house and stayed there waiting for some aunt to say: Don’t leave without eating.” It always sounded like a privilege.
The age of reason
Then the age of reason came and our aunts started comparing whose kid was in which position in the classroom. They started sending their kids off to nicer schools in cities, started living as disparately as possible.
To get more detached from each other, they particularly focused on the height of their walls. The kids who were left could no longer climb a tree to see what’s happening on their neighbour’s house, because there were none.
Urbanisation has resulted in the psychosis of our neighbours. The dwellers no longer feel it necessary to communicate. They do not even know the names of the people living next door
They did not feel motivated to meet other kids as there were no simple roads leading to each others’ houses anymore.
Remember the land seller? He didn’t keep any roads in his map nor the people who bought them from him. And so the kids stopped playing because there were no fields to play on.
Urbanisation has resulted in the psychosis of our neighbours. The dwellers no longer feel it necessary to communicate. They do not even know the names of the people living next door.
We have made ourselves so smart and sophisticated today that we don’t bother going to funerals. The bond between unknown families has broken, the new micro families with their micro hearts can barely feed themselves.
Does our next generation deserve this neighbourhood? Should we crowd their lives with plastic toys, electronic gadgets, schools, and artificial reality?
When was the last time you shared a meal with your neighbour? The last time you asked how they were doing? Or have you already figured that they are bad influences?
Rabiul Islam is a freelance contributor.