As the birthday party of my seven-year-old son was going on with great fun and frolic, I noticed my friend; Sarika was talking to her husband in a serious tone. After the small talk, her husband left the party midway, and she sat back and started sipping her soup. I went to her and asked her if everything was ok.
“Oh, yes…I had kept milk for boiling and forgot to put off the gas while leaving. The smell of burnt milk alarmed the next door aunty, and she called me. Sameer has gone to switch off the gas knob; he will be back in a few minutes.” She explained the situation to me.
It was a good thing that the party venue was very near to her home. As we were sitting across the table, my friend said, “Thank god aunty noticed the smell. However, now I am worried about how much she will lecture me upon this carelessness of mine.”
“She is less concerned about her husband’s reaction over the goof up but more bothered about neighbourhood aunty.” Another friend commented.
“Of course! When you have neighbours who have their eyes and ears open just for your doors, you have to feel panicked.” Sarika added sarcastically. “We don’t need CCTV cameras.”
The incident started a discussion about how some neighbours have this typical habit of keeping watch over your home. The Lord had said ‘love thy neighbour’, and some people have taken this way too seriously. They devote a lot of time looking after your affairs.
Neighbours in India have an exceptional place in the society. They are an important ingredient of the residential area which adds spice to a locality. They assist you, help you; they are the one who will be the first one to help you and be there, even before your children who are settled in faraway places, they know about your everyday routine and timings better than any of your relatives. However, the typical behaviour of the neighbours can classify them in a few watertight compartments. We have all seen some of these ‘species’, I have observed and tried to jot down some pointers about them here. I am sure that a known friendly neighbour’s face will pop up in your head when you will go through the following.
One of the most common species of neighbours these can be found mostly in localities having independent bungalows and row houses. There is no specific age limit to them, but most of them fall under the bracket of the late 30s and above – till their important sense organs allow them to keep a constant tab on the surroundings. They will always keep an eye on – when and who comes to your place and in which car they came or was it a motorbike. They will keep a tab on the amount of time someone spent at your place. And if unfortunately, you happen to employ the same maid in the locality, trust me they might use her as an optimum drone to keep themselves updated with the latest info about the happenings at your household. I am sure we all have at least one such wireless CCTV in our neighbourhood.
This neighbour always keeps track of your latest shopping expeditions, and next, you will find that they have also bought the same things or something more expensive to level up, it could be anything from a new cushion cover to a new car. They have this “uski saree meri saree se safed kaise” attitude. Sometimes, you don’t really understand how to handle such unwanted ‘competition’. Life has already thrown a fair share of lemons at you; you don’t need these ‘stressed-out souls’ running behind you too.
If you are an introvert, these can be your biggest fear. They will pop up at your door with the most angelic smile, saying, “yahan se guzar rahe the, socha hi bol de.” Before you can react, they are hovering all around your place looking at your stuff and murdering your right to privacy. They will also give you unsolicited advice about the neighbourhood and also spill some unnecessary ‘juicy gossip’. There ever shining grin might make you feel as if you are the coldest person on the planet. Yours truly has a real phobia for these.
These are a bit rare species these days. But you can spot them borrowing stuff like a few leaves of coriander and sometimes your bike for a few hours etc. They can borrow a can of petrol and at times they can even ask for a spare tyre. Sometimes they might return the stuff on time and sometimes they will be like “Oh… I forgot about it. I will bring it tomorrow.” It can be your toolbox, a bowl of sugar, a cup of milk – anything. The members of this category are mostly singles belonging to the age group of early twenties to thirties. They don’t have a settled grihasthi you know. So, borrowing is naturally a better option for them every time they run out of something.
These are the hidden gems in our neighbourhood, who for some reason could not join national politics. Their talent lies in handling social issues of the neighbourhood, solving disputes, and arranging facilities and managing the Ganeshotsav, Navratri celebrations with full enthusiasm. They will invite local leaders and celebrities to attend small functions in the locality. They utilise their social service talent in filing petitions for the issues in the neighbourhood. They keep a watch on young couples so that those lovebirds don’t ‘pollute’ the culture and at times they do the moral policing too. The members of this species can be of any age group; mostly starting from the late twenties till their seniority is taken into account.
This is a rare one. They are the understated, reserved, and busy in their own world kind of folks. At times they won’t even notice you. You can see them coming and going out of their homes without any concern about the surrounding neighbourhood. They are least bothered about what others are thinking about them. They have their own social circle and they don’t make themselves accountable to anybody. They will be very decent, but will not allow anyone to enter their mental or physical space. The members of this group mostly belong to urban and cosmopolitan youth who are mostly tenants and professionals.
Last but not the least, these are the neighbours who painstakingly wake up as early as possible, and set out with a carry bag in their hands and a stick with an angle made of wire attached to it; to pluck all the freshly bloomed flowers in the neighbour’s garden. They have the unmatching skill to point the rod inside the garden over the fence and succeed at plucking the specific flowers they want for their beloved Deity. I have noticed many of them every morning from my balcony in the morning. These species are exclusively found in India, especially during the festive seasons. You can spot then between 5.30 am to 7.00 am.
However, no matter how much humour we can draw from the variety of neighbours, it’s a fact that we need them. The society is based on strong bonding in the neighbourhoods. A friendly community is one of our priorities when we look for a new place to stay. It’s a relationship similar to that between spouses; after all, we are going to spend the rest of our life together. A good, understanding neighbour is essential for our peaceful existence. We can spend an excessive amount of money decorating our interiors, but if there is a lack of a caring, loving and decent neighbourhood, the value of our dwelling place is going to depreciate; psychologically, physically and financially. So first, let’s be good neighbours ourselves and then create a lovely neighbourhood around us.