Tuesday, June 05, 2018

A bit of heaven

There have been times when I've been asked what city I'd like to live in for the rest of my life. What sort of neighbourhood, what kind of streets, what shape of home?

I've never been able to come up with a good answer. The answers I do give sound unreliable even to my ears. Do I really want to be stuck in a big city? Do I really think I'm a small town girl? Is there anything worse than the sort of city which is neither metropolitan nor cosmopolitan, nor even eternally familiar?

It's a tricky question. What does your corner of heaven look like?

I find it easier to imagine my corner by eliminating the things it most certainly wouldn't have, if I had my way. I know that I wouldn't like my share of the sky eaten up by concrete. I know that I would not want plastic bottles and food wrappers in the vicinity, and if they were thrown, then – since we're talking of heaven where anything is possible – I'd like some sort of technology to be put in place that the thrown bottle or wrapper would fly right back to the hand of the thrower and attach itself there. The more one tried to throw a piece of rubbish into public property, or someone else's property, the more adhesive the rubbish would become.

In my corner of heaven, the air would not be corrosive. And the groundwater would not be poisoned or cancerous. Industries would not be set up in the vicinity, and if they were, then the owners of those industries would be required to put down roots in that same corner, so they might breathe that air and drink that water and bathe with it too.

All surfaces in this corner would not be covered over with concrete. If there were bricks or tiles, then gaps would be left for the rainwater to seep back into the ground. The streets would not flood each time it rained, and there would always be the assurance of water lying deep and clean a few metres below the surface of the earth.

I also imagine that a patch of heaven would be the sort of place where you don't have to clean out the gutters before every monsoon. And if you did have to clean and desilt, that it could all be done in a coordinated, collective manner. That one team didn't have to pull out massive globs of silt mixed with sewage, which they then left out in piles on the sidewalk, at regular intervals. That those piles would not have to wait for days until some more paperwork got pushed around and someone else was hired for this leg of cleaning.

An ideal city, a dream city, would not only be clean above all things, it would also be clean through small and big acts of collective responsibility. People who cleaned would have a chance to live in the little patch they cleaned themselves, so that they too had a stake in it. And people – a able-bodied adults, that is – who never cleaned private or public spaces would have the least right to live in the cleanest parts of town. In such a city, there might be embedded the principles of heaven.

1 comment:

Banno said...

I wish. How simple these wishes are. And yet.

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