‘It takes a village’… you have heard this phrase in relation to raising children. I know it very well because it took one to raise me.
I grew up in a small community village in Darjeeling, where we were strewn together with the rest in an unbreakable bond – with similar values, language, likes and dislikes and almost similar surnames – and yet we were all different. I remember in 1986, my father was in a hurry to get us a television set. We would be the first one in our village, but that wasn’t his motivation, of course. The World Cup football was afoot and he wanted to make sure our village gets to watch it at our place.
The TV arrived on time and I remember a whole bunch of people trying to understand how to fix the antennae, and tilting it in all directions to figure out the clarity on TV, ‘till the ants disappear’, we would say. For a while, we were catching a Chinese channel and after a few days, we got the right one – Bangladesh. After school, I would sit in front of the set to watch a cartoon show and in no time there’d be heads popping, filling the window and a whole bunch of kids used to watch the show with me.
The World Cup matches were always very late in the night and that was when the sense of community would get really strong. People would gather in our house, bringing in what we now call ‘potluck’. For us kids, besides Maradona, the food was the main attraction. We knew all the great cooks in the village and we would vie for the attention of our favourite ones. I learnt later that the adults would share jokes, problems, achievements and everything seemed somehow, alright.
Staying in a community has its benefits, you have a sense of belongingness, you never feel alone, you become more inclusive and there is always something great cooking in someone else’s kitchen. My mother was always busy doing community service as a doctor, therefore for me staying in the neighbour’s house, eating there and helping out was a part of growing up.
Still, I get a strong sense of being when I am part of a community. And there is so much to choose from, these days. I am currently a part of a community of women, women leaders, communications professionals, communication leaders and my hometown communities – online and in-person.
Here are some of the advantages of being a part of a community:
Awareness: There are many ways to know what’s new, what’s passe, but in a community, you get to know from the experiences of real people which makes it worthwhile. Getting a pulse of the hour from experts and connecting with them is important for yourself as well as for the community at large.
Learning: It comes naturally. Growing up in a community taught me so many life-skills, I’ve seen some of my friends who didn’t grow up in one actually go to classes to learn what I know. In professional communities too there is so much of learning that comes from sharing at different levels.
Sharing best practices and issues: While we learn what’s new, we also learn issues and the awareness and knowing your role in it, empowers you truly.
You become more inclusive: The best part is that you become more inclusive. In my village we had different kinds of people – with mental health issues, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, parents who were separated, single mothers bearing love-children, orphans, autistic, gender-diverse, alcoholics, drug-addicts and there was still more to discover, I am sure – strewn in an unbreakable bond – of values, language and similar surnames – I grew up with an inclusive mindset. It’s the same with professional communities, you discover people with diverse skillsets, mindsets and much more.
Remember, should you decide to be a part of a community, you play a big part too in moving your community forward and toward the right direction. Actually we are all part of one by default, one of humanity.