An evening in an apartment complex

An evening in an apartment complex

Since moving to the US to pursue my career, I regularly visit the apartment complex in Bengaluru where my retired parents live. I am always fascinated by the impromptu group meetings that take place in common spaces outside the buildings. There are different categories of groups, apparently formed through a process of self-selection with a common purpose.

There is the group of young moms with toddlers in tow, perhaps biding their time when they can leave the group and get back to full-time work. There is the experienced moms' group, with their children running around or cycling in the near vicinity —no doubt exchanging tips on how to shorten the time spent on domestic chores while keeping an eye on mischievous

There are groups by language exchanging gossip in their native tongues. Many participants keep a watchful eye through their apartment windows for first signs of activity in the foyer and come down to initiate or participate in the deliberations. Ownership of meeting spots for groups follows an informal reservation system based on seniority and, sometimes, sheer bullying.

By far, the two most powerful groups, are the parents whose children are married and settled abroad and in India. Mothers forming the first of these two groups routinely share the feats of their grandchildren. Some ladies, having recently returned after assisting with the delivery of their first grandchild in the US, wax eloquent on how pregnancy and child care are practised in Western countries. Others proudly describe how well their daughters are running their newly setup houses, taking an indirect dig at others’ daughters who may not be doing so well.

There is a lot of jostling for superiority with no clear winner at the end. Everyone goes home determined to come up with something more sensational the next day.

The second most powerful group is that of fathers (husbands of the mothers mentioned above). Exchange of information in this group tends to be more on the lines of WhatsApp. There is the dissemination of (mis)information on many subjects —civic amenities, local and international politics, stock picks, real estate, quality of coffee at a newly opened restaurant nearby —all happening at the speed of the internet.

Discussions are often interspersed with nostalgic throwbacks to how things were during someone’s younger days. As I walk, with amusement, around the narrow spaces between these groups, I cannot help but envy the community, bonding and togetherness that these people represent. I would give anything to be a member of one of these groups!

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