On Community

In the last chapter of Vasant Moon’s autobiography Growing Up Untouchable in India, Moon gives his last note about his beloved Vasti, neighborhood, or community. From his language readers can easily understand that he has a strong feeling about his community. He misses the days he spent there as well as the good atmosphere he experienced when he was young. At the mean time, Moon says that “the community has not remained a community” (176), which implies that most of the things in his community have been changed, including the good atmosphere and the unique spirit.

In fact, when I read this autobiography, I often unintentionally focus my attention on the community Moon describes instead of the situation of untouchables or the praise for Dr. Ambedkar. It is interesting to find that people are likely to stay together when they are in difficult situations. For example, the people in Moon’s community always share things and solve problems together when the discrimination against them existed. However, after they gained their rights and had a better life, the cohesion of this community curtailed gradually. When I rethink the things I have seen and heard in my life, I find that it is a common problem in many communities. In the past, when people had very low living standard, especially when there was a war, they were highly likely to help each other, so the relationships among people were easily formed. On the other hand, in today’s society, many people don’t need to worry about hunger or warmth anymore, so they pay more intention to competitions with each other and are busy with their own business. Before helping others, they would ask themselves that “is it beneficial for me?” or “what does it mean for me if I help you?” that kind of questions. Today’s people are independent, so the things they consider are usually associated with I instead of they. Can you believe that some people even don’t know who their neighbors are after living in the same community for a long time? But it happens in reality.

On mentioning community and neighborhood, I remember a story that gives the definition of “neighborhood” from my Composition class: a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and another man who lives in the neighborhood walks by without helping. Finally, the man is helped by a stranger. This story tells us that the real meaning of “neighborhood” is not confined to the physical area but the actions of helping and caring about each other. If everyone can do like the stranger described above, the world will become a big community. However, to achieve this dream, people may have to know the people who live next door first. It is ironic that someone asks a thief who is trying to open his or her neighbor’s door, “Have you lost your keys?” isn’t it?

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2 Responses to On Community

  1. phamtram says:

    Mei,
    You are right that we humans seem to concern about ourselves first. Besides, unhappiness usually brings solidarity and kindness, not happiness. I enjoyed reading your blog. However, can you please explain the last sentence? I just got a bit confused. Thanks

    • meihuilan says:

      Dear Tram,

      Thank you for your nice question. In terms of the last sentence, I just wanted to tell a story: One day a woman goes home, and she sees a man who is trying very hard to open her neighbor’s door. She regards the man as her neighbor and asks him whether he has lost his keys. From this story, we can see that the woman doesn’t know who her neighbors are at all. I hope this story will make it more clear for you.

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