Gated community
Gated communities, with their strictly controlled entrances, have become fashionable in the urban upper middle class sections of the Indian society Image Credit: Shutterstock

My wife and I live in a “gated community” in Bengaluru where paunchy and scrawny security guards keep us safe, and there is also razor wire on top of the walls.

You must have seen similar coiled barbed wire in areas where people are supposed to be kept out, such as at land borders or at military installations, or at chemical labs.

We are all civilians, but there are now CCTV cameras at the entrance gates of our community, so nobody can get in without a proper and thorough check by the guards.

We are a couple of hundred families here in this community and everyone looks normal when we see each other during the morning or evening constitutionals.

But that is how spies and other dangerous species of humans look like — normal, every day people, worried about ordinary things like their jobs and careers or their failing relationships (if you have seen the OTT series Family Man, or the movie, Mr and Mrs Smith, you will know what I am talking about).

But for some reason none of us know how to take care of ourselves, or our homes. It is as if we were taught only to do certain tasks, sort of specialists, who are like babies when it comes to cooking or sweeping the floor.

Not many people use vacuum cleaners, maybe because the power keeps going off and when the backup comes on, it allows you to switch on only one light bulb and one table fan and you can charge your smartphone.

But despite the erratic power supply, artificial intelligence is slowly creeping here in India, albeit very slowly, and maids are being replaced by robo cleaners, and the latest ones even let out jets of spray, like an impatient pet cat, and cleans and mops your floors automatically.

But robots have not reached us yet and the front gates of the community are usually jam-packed early morning with scooter-riding maids and cooks as the security guards struggle to log them in.

The scene is replayed again in the evening, but this time the maids and house help have to open their handbags to show the security guards that nothing has been taken from the homes, where the helpless live.

In a foreign country we lived in many years ago, we there were gated communities. Inside the compounds it was like living in a small town somewhere in the States, but it was not meant for us ‘others’, the “foreign workers”.

Sometimes when we were invited by a friend to their home inside the compound, it was like an American sitcom’s version of suburbia, with cars parked outside each home, children cycling on the neat pavements and all it needed was women marching into each other’s homes with apple pies in their hands.

Some of the compounds even had their own schools, a doctor’s clinic, a radio station, a restaurant, so you did not have to leave the place and go out into the harsh environment, and everyone was well protected.

The same model has been copied here in Bengaluru and other Indian cities, where people are kept safe in their cocoons.

Gated communities started most probably when the much-reviled NRIs, or Non-Resident Indians, or Indians who never really resided in the country, returned home after their stint abroad and wanted something like the compounds to keep themselves safe from the real world.

It is nice living in this bubble and we only have to go out into the real world briefly, where the infrastructure is crumbling, and then rush back again to our safe haven.

We don’t even have to go out for mundane things like shopping for groceries as the delivery guys bring in our fruits and vegetables and poultry.

Sometimes, people wish to escape and go on a “holiday”, but even that longing for freedom has stopped, now that there is a third wave of the pandemic expected.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi