Let's mind our business

Bere avara suddhi namage yaake bidi...These words are virtually coming out of my ears as I hear them with unfailing regularity day after day during my morning walk around a playground near my house.

Different people go for a walk for different reasons and "walk" need not necessarily be one of them. A group of women, for instance, has taken upon itself the responsibility of drowning the chirping of birds with their cackle. The conversation is what soaps are made of: politics between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, extra-marital affairs and spousal issues.

They saunter around the playground at a leisurely pace, blocking the path of other more-serious walkers, and take their own sweet time to clear the way. It is at this point that my antenna picks up bits and pieces of the conversation, and by now I am completely clued into the neighbourhood gossip.

After dissecting the issues concerning almost every single household in the vicinity, the non-stop 45-minute chatter invariably ends with one sentence, "Why should we be bothered about other's affairs?" Suddenly, one of the ladies realises that her yajamanru or husband would be back home soon, and she should return to serve him a cup of bisi, bisi filter-kaapi.

The yajamanru, on his part, has gone for a small stroll with a red-coloured plastic basket to gather flowers from the neighbours' gardens for his pooja. One day, when I return home, I find him arching over my compound to pick some bougainvillea, which incidentally have flowered for the first time in three years. Instead of reprimanding him, I smile and say, "Please pray for me, too." The look on his face: priceless.

While I bear no animosity towards these pious flower-pickers, the guy with faded over-sized bermuda and sagging T-shirt never fails to get the better of me. He stands outside his house and smokes away to glory, polluting the early-morning fresh air. What an irony that we, the health-conscious, have to turn passive smokers just because Mr Bermuda cannot answer the call of nature unless he takes a few puffs.

Another eyesore is the guy with the psychedelic attire and an equally loud-coloured pair of shoes, but I bear with him because I know his new-found enthusiasm will not last. Truly so, he disappears just as I am planning to start wearing dark glasses to avoid the piercing colours.

My walks have also taught me that there are two kinds of dog lovers - one that owns them, the other that only admires them. As a pretty girl walks her pet, I notice a young guy unconcernedly approaching her. Pretending not to give her undue attention, he pets the dog and casually remarks, "He is such a handsome guy. I love dogs. What breed is he?" The girl flashes a mocking smile and moves on. Obviously, if you cannot recognise a Labrador, one knows what kind of a dog lover you are.

My favourite, however, is a lady who is dressed to kill and walks so daintily as if afraid she might lose an ounce or two if she is a little fast-paced. At the end of half an hour, not a hair is out of place, and the make-up is intact. I'm almost tempted to tell her that this catwalk will take her nowhere, but I decide to mind my business.

Bere avara suddhi namage yaake bidi.

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