I am lying in my bed, staring at the fan. I haven’t stepped out in days. The laundry bag is piling up, reminding me of the 99 ways in which I am failing to be an adult. The dishes need to be placed back into their respective slots. No one at home, except for me. I reach out to grab my phone and feel sick as soon as the display glows. An endless vortex of scrolling doesn’t feel too appetising at the moment, but there is no other way to fill a sense of incompleteness.

Being depressed is already difficult. Being depressed while living in a transit desert, is even more so. My house is 20 minutes away from the metro station. However, walking to the station involves crossing a highway in the blistering heat and scorching sun. The closest bus stop is 5 minute walk away however it is so poorly serviced that we get a bus only every 30 minutes.

And still, I am luckier than most. I have the choice to take a bus or the metro. But due to anxiety and depression, getting the motivation to plan for a 30-minute wait at the bus stop, or a long, sweaty walk is nearly impossible.

I rarely step outside my house because that requires me to spend money on transport. Militantly against owning an automobile, I’d have to spend about 300 rupees on travel if I had to meet my friends (and reach there on time). As someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, it is quite difficult to spend so much on travel. As a result, I rarely step out.

Even if I did, where would I go? To the movies? The mall? A cafe? Every spot requires one to spend money. The replacement of public spaces with private “public” spaces spells disaster for citizens. Where do the children play? Where should the old aunties and uncles sit for their evening gup-shup/carrom/board game sessions? Where do young lovers play hide and seek with the world? Where do we find community?

I grew up in a neighbourhood full of public parks. As the streets were not dominated by cars, I could cycle around my block fearlessly. Cars were still a menace, don’t get me wrong – my first pet dog died in an accident. But they weren’t as many.

And now I live in an area of the city where walking means navigating a sea of motorbikes and cars parked on the footpath. When we moved into a big gated housing society, in my teen years, my evening routine would be - to finish dinner, text my friends, play basketball for two hours and then take a walk in my gated society. Gated is a keyword here because my previous housing society had a rich canopy of trees, and was extremely walkable and clean even when the outside was full of cars. Folks in gated societies can create an oasis in transit deserts. They have all their immediate needs met, with convenience stores, gardens, gyms, and clubhouses right inside the society premises.

But why should these amenities be reserved for the upper echelon of society?

Fast forward to today, I spend so much time alone that sometimes I go hours without talking. Thankfully I grew up in the age of the internet, due to which I can rely on digital spaces. But there is a crushing sense of emptiness and endless boredom that goes hand in hand with being lonely in a city. The metallic taste of the urban scape, coupled with the lack of easy access can really do a number on your brain. On top of all that, imagine being depressed.

I don’t have a way to conclude this post. I could say, we need to build cities that are conducive to our mental health, and all that jazz. But as I sit here and type this on my laptop, I wonder if mental health will ever be taken seriously by urban planners. The general society doesn’t, so why would they care? But I can leave you with an image of what a healthy city would look like, according to me.

The sun is in its final lap, casting an orange glow over the city. As soon as it’s 7, I rush downstairs and hear the sound of children giggling as they play lagori on the ground floor of my building. A few aunties and uncles are chattering about their day near the road. When I step outside my apartment building, I see cyclists and pedestrians on the streets, going about their day. Students are flocking to eat at the numerous food stalls by the main road. I walk to the bus stop using the footpath and patiently wait for the bus to arrive. And it does, on time.