As most of you know, I recently joined as editor of India Currents magazine. Apart from the usual perks of working in a friendly environment with adults to talk to (boy, I never realized how much I was missing that), it is a bonus to have the office located in a quiet and pleasant tree-lined street, even though it is a hop, skip and jump from the highway. My building even has a small man-made pond, courtesy of the Church of Scientology(!).
I’ve been dying to explore the area, and when a nearby plaza suddenly bucked the recession and opened up nearly half-a-dozen new shops catering to office goers, it seemed like an invitation to enjoy the fine Californian summer and check it out.
Alas, I quickly discovered that there was really no safe way to walk to the plaza, which is literally 3 minutes from my office. San Jose city planners, in their infinite wisdom, had created a multitude of grassy verges that lushly deplete the city’s water supplies, and had completely forgotten about pedestrian crossings, at least as far as my eyes could see.
Being a veteran of road crossings in Mumbai, I only hesitated for a moment before setting off along the rain gutters, occasionally moving to the grass if I was in danger of being mowed down by a bus. I blithely jaywalked across the tar, nimbly avoiding the meager traffic and arrived at my destination.
The coffee shop promised to open only the next day, which may have soured my mood, but in my new environmentally conscious persona, I was more than a little pissed at the architects of this sidewalk-less vision of the city, with each office worker neatly cubicled up in their little offices, driving their little boxes to spend their day in more little boxes, separated from their fellow human beings by not just wood, steel and glass, but the impossibility of random personal contact, even as they “walled” and “tweeted” their business to their virtual acquaintances. How much nicer it would have been if I could take a stroll down my pretty street and casually bump into fellow toilers and exchange some gossip away from the water cooler. We’d certainly feel a stronger sense of community, which has to be the first step in being involved in and influencing the decisions that impact our daily lives.
Anyhow, having got my activist mojo on during last year’s elections, I fired off an email to the customer service department of the City of San Jose, and gratifyingly, they have responded ( even if it’s with an automated reply!) promptly.
I certainly don’t expect bulldozers to start tearing up the pristine lawns on my street, but if my email makes city planners pause and consider “walkability” as an important criterion when planning the next development, I will have done what I can.
I’ll keep you updated on the reply from the city. If you would like to share your opinions with the city too, here is the email -customerservice at sanjoseca.gov. Make the usual corrections.