Block party..!

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WHAT are our neighbours doing I asked my father, as I peered out of my parents’ apartment in New York, US. “They’re having a block party,” said my father. “A block party,” I said, “You mean they’re going to block all people from coming into the block?”
“Something like that,” said my father smiling. “Today no traffic will be allowed into the street. Only the people having houses on this street will be able to use it. Their children will be able to play on the road. The residents of the block can have a party over there. Every year the people staying in every block or street in New York are given one day’s permission to close their road and to use it totally for their block party.”
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 this vast city of New York. Children on roller skates were skating from one end of the road to the other. Mothers were chatting with each other knowing that today their babies were safe. Young men and boys with cokes of beer can in their hands were laughing at each other’s jokes. In all, there was an air of festivity and gaiety.
“Have a beer,” a stout Mexican shouted at me from across the road, “No thank you,” I said. “I am just enjoying the fellowship and friendship.” “Enjoy it as much as you can,” 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 city of Mumbai. I thought of our people over there. People in the housing societies. People in the chawls, people in the jopatpatties.
“Do you have block parties,” asked the man, handing me a can of 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 India, I said, “as I watched other people coming closer to hear me speak, “we people share each other’s 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 other’s joys, but also the sorrows that come upon us. More than the relatives, it’s the neighbours and friends who stand by you in your time of trouble, whichever community we belong to.”
“India seems to be a beautiful country,” said a lady, “here we are so busy we have no time for each other.” “Have another coke,” said my stout Mexican friend, “and here’s cheers to you lovely land where there are so many block parties.” “Yes cheers,” shouted all my newly found friends, “Cheers to the people of India.” That was years ago. Today India has changed.
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