Most of the troubles in the world seem to be because we do not seem to feel a sense of belonging. We treat everything and everyone around us like shit.
There was a time when it was normal for people to live and die in the same place, at times living their whole live in the same house. Then came technology. Travelling became easier, we started moving places. The relentless search for more made us look for better work, better opportunity. For more and for better.
Resettling to another city has almost become a norm. For someone born 70 years ago, moving to another city, let alone another country would not have been normal at all. It is totally normal for someone born in the 1990s.
Last week, my partner Salma engaged in a self exploratory exercise of mapping out every single house that she had lived in. All of them were in the same city. This prompted me to undertake the exercise for myself. If I consider places that I have lived in for 6 months or more, I have lived in about 15 places in 3 cities. If I was to consider places I have lived in for a month or more, that number increases to 19 places across 6 cities and 3 countries.
I feel this when someone asks me; “Where are you from?”
My answer often goes - I am actually from Chennai but was brought up in Delhi and then settled in Bangalore.
In short, I am from nowhere.
I belong to no place.
My existence has been punctuated by constant change and today I am in a place where I really cannot say I belong to a particular city. The place I am native to, I have not spent much time at. I place where I grew up, I have no reason to go back. And then there is the place that I am living at.
So probably I just belong where I live.
But even that is not true.
I am not a product of its culture, I do not know its language and feel no compulsion to learn it. Invariably I will never belong to this place.
We are a product of our environment. All of us. What you eat in large part is determined by where you live and what is grown locally. Sure, with the logistics available today, one could ship anything and cook whatever one wants. But there is a reason we grow and eat the way we do in different regions. The climate, the environment, the weather suites that kind of food.
I would like to see French people abandon their olive oil and switch to rice bran oil and eat Dosa for breakfast. I can assure you the experiment will not end well. It does not work the other way around either.
When you belong to a place, you learn the land and you learn the culture and most importantly you work to preserve it. Preserve it because you anticipate that your future generations will have to live there. You do it because it is the right thing to do and because you care.
In the beginning of September, Bangalore got flooded. Scratch that, certain part of Bangalore got flooded. Bangalore received more rain in a day than it does in a month. I remember staring out of the window and thinking it is raining like mad. I have seen such rain in Delhi, where it rains only during the two months of monsoon. It rains almost every month in Bangalore. In fact if it did not people would start complaining.
Entire forest have been mowed down to write analysis about the corruption and the land permits and the development on floodwater basins.
There is a more fundamental problem.
Bangalore has too many people who do not belong. They do not care. That is the source of the problem. Corruption and everything else is the symptom of the disease. You can incentivise politicians to do the right thing or the wrong thing. The question often comes down to who has the money to set that incentive and what they feel is right. When they do not belong to a place, they often do not care about right and wrong.
As long as we continue to live in this hyper-connected world where people end up moving all the time. People won’t belong to the place they live in. They won’t care about the place they live in. Consequently, we have no hope of overcoming many of the societal issues that we are faced with today, especially climate change.