Did you notice that funerals of our time are like flowers that drop off the ‘thoongamoongee maram’?
Our neighbour dies, condolences are passed on quietly, the mourning is subdued and the funeral is over quietly and life moves on.
In an increasingly cocooned and frenetic world we are like flowers on an avenue tree.
At our newspapers, we make an effort to look at these flowers when the day is done and they have gone to sleep.
I woke up this morning to the news of the passing away of a man I knew better as a neighbour who would chat a bit in our colony.
The previous night, an autorickshaw had dropped me off at the street corner and I had hurried home, keen to watch the second half of the India-Spain World Cup hockey match, a make-or-break tie for India.
I have this habit of glancing at the two streets that cross the colony - perhaps this habit has grown out of a journo’s training. You always take a second look at things.
The sign of a death was simply not around though my neighbour lived on the other side of a street junction.
The morning newspaper announced his death. And I said a prayer.
P. V. Srinivasan was a man I liked. Because he kept a tab on the neighbourhood and when the ‘Adyar Times’ rolled out 17 years ago, was one of those regular correspondents.
A retired scientist at the Central Institute of Leather Research (CLRI), one of those national institutes that dot the Guindy region, Srinivasan often wrote letters on the positive uses of leather and leather footwear.
A few lines on how this material best suits us in our torrid climatic conditions would appear dull stuff but to us, it was a letter worth publishing. It was useful information that came from a professional who wanted to share a bit of useful knowledge.
Srinivasan was also a civic conscious citizen. He kept an eye on Sastri Nagar, making a note of the problems as he went about his morning walks and on errands later in the day. Dead streetlights, need for speed breakers, suggestions for maps of colonies, polluted water . . . .
Back home, he would put them down on an inland letter and post it to us and to other newspapers.
He called a spade a space and if things were set right by the state agencies, he also had a warm word of appreciation for them.
State agency staffers have told me that they respected Srinivasan’s observations because he neither blew up a problem nor complained needlessly.
He was the neighbourhood’s watchdog, a committed citizen.
We need dozens and hundreds of Srinivasans for our neighbourhoods if we are to enjoy a free, well-facilitated and peaceful life.
We need people who report the hiccups that plague our colonies, those who follow-up on projects that the state provides us, trigger responses when other people violate laws or flout their power and engage with elected representatives and officials.
Postcards and inland letters, the Internet and a responsible media can make a difference.
So can you.