Creeping Insecurity

Alright Chennai, what is going on with you? You were once the safest place, but now the question is how did you deteriorate and most importantly why!

We live in an apartment building. On the ground floor, there is an unfinished apartment that the watchman and his wife live in. These two people are available full round the clock and are rather nice people. Sometimes their grandchildren come over and play and sometimes they sleep over. No one has any complaint as it really doesn’t cause any of the residents any problem. Overall, alls well with the neighbourhood.

Here’s what happened two nights back. Our watchman noticed a man loitering around in the evening near our gate. He was constantly talking over his phone in Hindi. Eventually, everyone came home and that was that. That night one of his granddaughters had stayed over with them and was sleeping in his quarters. At about 11pm, this child woke up to the stranger shining his cell phone’s torchlight inside. This guy had come into the apartment complex, opened the watchman’s apt doors, stepped inside and was coolly checking things out, shining light upon the surroundings with his cell phone light.

Our watchman always closes his doors and places an empty tin can inside of the doors, so when someone opens the doors he knows. A sort of calling bell he made. Hearing the tin clattering the child woke up and saw this strange guy and screamed with all the strength of her lungs. Our watchman came forth and the intruder ran away. He ran towards the back of our apartment and then got away. For the first time in the three-decade of our apartment’s existence not once has anything like this happened. And since this intruder was speaking away in Hindi, the watchman and his family, and all parents in the apartments are a bit unnerved. I do not mean to be casting aspersions on those who speak Hindi, I speak the language as well. But then, there is a reputation that a certain sort of people create and then such incidents always tend to lend credibility to the same as well.

Overall it was an incident that was quite a bit unsettling for all of us. With the spate of chain snatching incidents and the rise in crime being reported in Chennai, it was already an issue being discussed by everyone. But when an incident like this occurs in our own premises it was too close to home.

What does this mean – are our law enforcement officers who are supposed to be on patrol so lapse in their duties that these things happen? Or are our police personnel rather unsympathetic to the general public and their safety? Of course, there is the question of why our watchman did not report such an incident. He did ask this man why was he loitering around, to which he was asked in turn “is it your private property I am loitering in?”. Which was actually what this man eventually did!

Now there is another question of CCTV cameras and surveillance. The north Gopalapuram residents association which holds meetings and collects a fee from all residents did plan to do something of this nature. But there is only one street that seems to benefit from all their plans. Garbage collection, not allowing random cars to be parked in the locality, clean streets, metro water, all of this seem to be issues resolved only to those residents who reside on that one street, while the rest of us who have paid our dues for the same have to put up with reserving our parking spaces with stones and overflowing garbage bins, no drinking water and other unresolved complaints.

The city of Chennai seems to be a neglected entity in every which way, and what was once a safe and happy place seems to have become a model of deterioration due to apathy.

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