In one case, it was simple remote-control technology that confounded inside and outside, and in another, just some ether on a handkerchief. The front door, through which the householder meets the world for all sorts of mundane as well as exciting reasons, is fast becoming a place of menace to the ordinary inhabitants of this city. What ‘home-delivery services’ have begun to bring to their doorsteps are either bombs or other far-from-benign designs on person and property. No amount of caution on the part of the police or citizens can prevent such cunningly aggressive forms of access to what used to be regarded as inviolable domestic spaces. And this is happening while online shopping, and therefore the importance and ubiquity of courier companies, is catching on as an inevitable part of modern life and its new conveniences. So, as life — especially domestic life — opens up and forms its networks of semi-virtual services, there is a corresponding, and paradoxical, movement towards greater protection, towards the securing of boundaries between inside and outside.
Middle-class Calcutta, possibly because of its traditions of both tolerance and economic sluggishness, had managed to hold out against the gated-colonies solution to a much greater extent than Mumbai, Delhi and other ‘progressive’ Indian cities have done. The latter have all devised, as fairly standard practice, ways of creating protective buffers between the front door and the outside world. Between the home and the world, in these cities, exists the gate, the guard-house and high walls — a form of security that ordinary Calcuttans would tend to dismiss as excessive and unseemly (their preference for grilled balconies, windows and collapsible gates notwithstanding). Unfortunately, this openness of the home to the world, together with the character that it lends to the city, will be on the wane now.