Communities…

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Austin is a small city… but my wife’s friend who moved from Toronto loves it there… “Our whole community has moved here from Mumbai… except for my parents, I have my siblings, cousins, my husbands siblings, cousins, our uncle’s, etc… we even have 2 Jamat Khana’s”… she was convinced… her operative phrase was “our whole community is here”…

In the book Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, a renowned Bollywood personality, Vidhu Vinod Chopra is mentioned wishing about how he could take all the closest people he has with him and create a small world of his own in a separate place… something like the Atlantis in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand…

In one of my earlier write up (https://vaibhavgandhi.co.in/2016/02/19/this-is-normal), I had mentioned an anecdote of Shiv-Parvati-Kartikeyan and Ganpati and how we all form our own little bubbles of existence… we all do it out of compulsion… we are complex social animals… we seek acceptance (https://vaibhavgandhi.co.in/2016/08/18/and-the-gold-goes-to) from people we aspire to belong to… and yet we also aspire to rise and distinguish above the rest of the world… that our self worth comes from the challenge we represent to have overcome… and yet the bedrock of our mental comfort still comes from security of being able to be with and fall back in known surroundings amongst our ‘own’ people…

We are animals at our very core… we live in our own herd… just that we are quite complex and hence our species divides our herd on multiple different parameters…

These parameters for our community in the last 5000 years of recorded history has gravitated towards shared culture as the premise… the lifestyle, the traditions, the beliefs, the value system, the look and feel… and before the last 100 odd years or so, all of this was driven by and stemmed from a common source – religion… muddled to some extent with nuances of each geographical location… but primarily religion gave people the way of living, the way of thinking and the way of worship… Religion hence used to be the sole determinant of communities for mankind up to 100 years back…

The concept of religion determining our community – our world, is on the wane today… in line with the decrease in importance of religion determining our value system, beliefs and culture… a lot of it has been replaced by business networks, social network, school and college groups, our apartment / condo groups and so on… all of them increasingly secular groups – not formed on basis of religion but common interests…

However, do they have the strength to bind people together as much as religion did? After all, the need for a person is to have the comfort of a group to fall back on in times of adversity… and groups based on common interests – their principle is for mutual benefit… yes, there is an element of support in each type… but is it strong enough as much as the glue that religion based communities provided… For what religion gave was a reason to help others not for any return but for a purportedly higher cause…

I hope it does… for otherwise, human beings will and already have started abandoning religion but will not / have not found the alternative… coupled with the decrease in family bonding, it is probably the reason why more and more people find themselves depressed and lonely in the connected world of today!

Am not for a moment suggesting that the move from religion is wrong… Religion has not evolved… which it should have to keep pace with evolving needs of mankind… and its torch bearers have tried in vain for far too long to protect outdated dogmas and push people in the opposite direction of their evolving desires… and the scary part is that the ones which have retained or are gaining appeal, that provide the comfort of belongingness to people today, are so extremist in their ideals that they are literally breeding terrorism… and not just in a particular religion…

But still… there is an inherent sense of comfort in shared culture… one of my ex-boss, whom I am extremely fond of and close to, met me and my wife for lunch sometime back… and the topic of discussion came to religion and marriage… and I found myself somehow defending the benefits of marriage within the same religion / community – more driven / arranged by parents… that me and my wife had 13 years back… whilst I probably came across as a regressive person… but my point was… in such a marriage, when parents look for partners for their child from their own community… the culture is the same… hence the lifestyle, value system, the beliefs… all things mentioned before would be expected to be similar… the potential groom and the bride only needed to figure out each others personal preferences… literally hobbies and life goals… for there would be lesser surprises in lifestyle in any case… There was no concept of live – in relationships during those days (at least in India)… so the arranged marriage thing like that worked well for many (like us) back then…

And its not just marriage… there are many religion based communities in India that take care of their group in all walks of life… not just worship… the Kutchi’s for example have been known to ensure that any new kid wanting to setup a retail grocery business was groomed and supported by someone or the other from their community till he was on his feet… the Ismaili’s, are another strong community who support in all walks of life… their entire community in and around Austin / Houston is an example… the Patel’s in all parts of US are a folklore if you google them up… They have ensured that they have brought in so many of their own there, that the joke is that its easier to do a census of how many of them are still left in India then to count how many have been brought and settled in US… Idea here is… that whilst all religion support in way of worship, quite a few actually form a strong community based living that thrive people in all other aspects of life as well…

So what am I saying here… a common culture based community provides a wonderful sense of comfort that the other groups have not been able to replace as of right now… the thrill of experiencing a new world exists… but the mental peace of having our own community is still there to be had if one wants… just an observation…

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