One of the things that make our Indian cities vibrant is the presence of several small businesses that eke their living by solving the everyday problems of the citizens, or making their lives easier in small and practical ways.
One such tradesman is the locksmith who is found in every market area. Here is Mr Muniyappa of Jayanagar 9th Block:
Mr Muniyappa has, he says, been in this spot for over 2 decades now! He has seen Jayanagar 9th Block market developing from scratch into a busy, crowded area.
His shop is still on the footpath:
But people for miles around know where, exactly to find him…and knew that long before he acquired his mobile phone!
Just look at the variety of key-blanks that he has; with his vice and set of files, he makes duplicates of various keys, often telling a customer, "Ardha ghante mele banri!" and having the keys ready at that time.
Of course, like all locksmiths, it happens that occasionally someone takes him along because the front door is locked and the key missing…so one has to wait until that problem is solved and he returns!
Just look behind the locksmith, and you will see what is called, in local parlance, a "chota tailor"..one who will do a lot of alternation work on your clothes, and repair them for you, too, if need be…for a very reasonable sum indeed!
Such people are the heart of trade and commerce in the local market areas of Bangalore; they ply their trade with honesty and diligence, and a sense of belonging to the area comes from knowing these people as persons and not just as workmen in the market area.
I am sure that by now, Muniyappa has opened the front doors of every apartment in my building! He opens doors in about three or four minutes, and laughs, "The notion of a well-locked door is mainly your sense of security…nothing will stop a good locksmith for very long!"
That makes me muse on the trust that I repose in so many others who visit my home..the milk and newspaper delivery people, the cleaners, the security guards….I may not think about them often, but it’s a web of dependency that sustains my daily life. ⊕
It is true that the “strangers we know” give us a sense of belonging. And most of us are fortunate these the “strangers we know” are connected to our lives. Most of them look out for us, and we don’t even realize it. Unless there is intentional malice, the milkman and the delivery people are watching out for our property, our homes, our children and our families. The more they feel they “know” us, and the kinder we are to them, the more their sense of obligation to form not only our web of dependency, but also our web of soft-protection.
The common-area sweeper lady is very likely to report the signs of smoke coming from under your door, for example, if you’ve stepped away for an errand. However, she’s less likely to do so if you’ve just mistreated her last week…