This was many years ago, while visiting my parents in America: ‘What are our neighbours doing?’ I asked my father, as I peered out of my parents’ apartment in New York.
‘They’re having a block party,’ he said, peering out from his apartment.
I walked downstairs onto the road and was amazed as I saw everybody enjoying themselves. Generally nobody bothered to even smile at each other in Brooklyn where my parents lived. But today, children were skating, mothers were chatting with each other knowing that today their babies were safe and pretty girls were walking up and down the road parading in front of young men and boys with cokes or beer cans in their hands who laughed at each other’s jokes while quietly eying the pretty girls.
In all, an air of festivity and gaiety.
‘Have a coke,’ a stout Mexican shouted at me from across the road.
‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘I’m enjoying the fellowship and friendship!’
‘Enjoy!’ shouted the man grinning at me, ‘We get this chance only once a year.’
‘Only once a year,’ I thought to myself and my thoughts went back to my beloved country. I thought of our people over there. People in the housing societies. People in chawls. People in hutments.
‘Do you have block parties,’ asked the man, handing me a coke.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘yes, we have them many times a year.’
‘What,’ asked the man, ‘how can you have it so many times. It is only once a year that the whole block can get together.’
‘In my country,’ I said, ‘as I watched other people, coming closer to hear me speak, ‘we people share each others’ joys and sorrows, burdens and laughter.’
‘How d’you do that,’ asked a man in the crowd.
‘Every event is an event we share with everybody.’ I replied. During Diwali, the Hindus, and Muslims and Christians and all communities, join in the celebration, so it is with Christmas or Bakri-Id or any festival of any community. Not only do we celebrate each others’ joys, but also the sorrows that come upon us. More than the relatives, it’s the neighbours and friends who stand by you, whichever community you belong to.’
‘It seems to be a beautiful country,’ said a lady, ‘here we are so busy we have no time for each other.’
‘Yes,’ I said slowly, ‘my country is a beautiful county, where love and compassion and sharing still come first and where we still do have time for each other.’
‘Have another coke,’ said my stout Mexican friend, ‘and here’s cheers to your lovely land where there are so many block parties.’
‘Yes cheers,’ shouted all my newly found friends, ‘Cheers!’
That was many years ago. Today, in my beloved country things have changed dramatically, so much so that other countries are questioning us for the polarization happening!
Oh for the block parties of old..!