My neighbour, my friend

My neighbour, my friend

Like family, neighbours have both their dark and their light shades. And our expectations, too are skewed. We ask the impossible. We want them to be invisible, yet appear when we want them to (which other door can we knock at in the middle of the night when we want help?). Yet we really do not want the kind of neighbour my friend in Chennai has: she counts the beer bottles being taken out by my friend’s maid after a particularly boisterous party! And what’s more she lets my friend know it.

I consider myself an authority on neighbours and am aware of their idiosyncrasies and blessings. I consider myself lucky that it is heavily weighted in favour of the blessings bit.
When I went to Mumbai, the big bad metropolis, in the early 60s as a young bride with two young children, I was petrified.  Of living cheek by jowl with people whose customs I was not familiar with. And yet my Bombay experience made me realise what a good neighbour can be.

I encountered a fast talking, fast thinking quick gun Maragatham in the shape of vivacious Punjabi lady. She took me under her wing; our children were the same age and went to the same school. She sat with me as I tried my new driving license obtained in the then sleepy Madras and issued instructions staccato style, with a lot of ‘clot’s thrown in, a word which to me till then described only blood in solid from. When a young boy ran into the side of my car, and I did not want to drive after that, she barked at me in a tone which brooked no dissent: Get back in there and drive! And drive I did. Which I may not have done otherwise, for I would have lost my nerve!

Now I live in an apartment block of 8 flats. And every need is catered for. There is a doctor who says: What are doctor neighbours for if not to help? There is a lovely young thing downstairs who helps me with diagrams on the computer and a Sanskrit scholar who tells me stories to use in articles with whom I indulge in my new found passion for Malayalam movies. My neighbour across the floor fiddled with my mobile when it fell and got it working again!

So this is a tribute to neighbours wherever they are. They are the salt of the earth, as long as they don’t count my beer bottles.

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