By Madhavi Jadhav:
It was 1989, we didn’t have a television at our home so I used to visit my neighbours, the Khan family, just to watch Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland on their black and white television set. They were amongst the privileged few to have a television set at home. Khan Aunty hailed from Hyderabad and she made amazing dosa, and her chutney was famous in Bhilai. My routine was fixed on Sundays, after watching the cartoons, I used to enjoy the delicacies prepared by Khan Aunty followed by some desserts specially prepared for me. Aunty had two sons so I was treated like a princess in their family. Our families used to go together for shopping, movies and on several jaunts. The Khan family was like an extended family for us, we used to celebrate Eid and Diwali together. Whenever mother used to buy a saree for herself she always bought something for Khan Aunty.
I guess gone are the days when neighbours were like extended families. Social media is bringing the world together, however, it is taking next-door neighbours apart. My not so friendly mother wanted to be friends with our neighbours as (unfortunately they are her age), but was shooed by them. Mother had joined yoga classes, one fine morning before going for her regular yoga sessions she met Mr. Singh (our not so friendly neighbour) and informed him about the sessions. He made a furious face and replied, “We get all the updates from the society and you need not to tell us anything, thank you!” and he fled, leaving mother amazed.
I have stayed in Mumbai for around 4 years and I know the space crunch there. People literally fight for every square inch of extra space, and why not? The cost of real estate is very high, especially in Mumbai. Any infraction in the neighbours’ space can lead to court cases and in some extreme cases even bloodshed. Once, father had a brawl with our neighbours over parking space. Father had generously let our neighbours use our parking space as we didn’t have a car at that time. However, when our car came, our neighbours refused to remove their car form our parking space leading to heated discussions. He even crashed into the back bumper of our car to take revenge.
You can’t choose your neighbours. They come in all shapes and sizes.
From studious students to those involved in rave parties, from loud music lovers to crying babies you can expect anyone living the next door. My friend who was a bachelor, moved to Mumbai, and it was difficult for him to find a flat. So he asked his girlfriend to move in with him, since it also saved some money. They were pretending to be happily married for the flat owner and the neighbours, but unfortunately his neighbour got to know about his arrangement and threatened to inform his parents and the flat owner about his relationship status so he had to get married to his live-in partner.
These are the neighbours who steal Wi-Fi and hike up your monthly broadband bill. These are the neighbours who even take away your newspaper if you forget to collect them in time. These are the neighbours who steal water and electricity and make your life hell.
Shakespeare once said, love thy neighbours. I would say love them but with a distance.