What goes around...

What goes around...

Voyeurs, beware!

It was fun to sometimes speculate on the lives of those people.
On the floor above is a man who comes to the balcony to smoke — the ‘Smoker’. There is also a ‘Studyer’, ‘the Kid’, ‘the Foot-injury’, and ‘the Sari Hanger’.

Do you remember when the neighbours always used to snoop on us to find out what we were doing? Well, it’s so nice that no one can do that anymore. We live in a second-floor apartment!”

Sitting on a small clearing I’d made on my couch, I looked around my living room with smug satisfaction. The couch, the chairs and the table were covered with books, papers, clothes and various dust-catchers (a.k.a cute ornaments), and an overall coat of dust. In short, it looked as if a thief had made a half-hearted attempt to rob us and about half-way through, given it up as a waste of his time. But this being the normal look of my house, I was happy.

“Well, are you sure?” asked my husband.

Here we go again! I looked at him with fond exasperation. He was thinking. He is a PhD for God’s sake. He should know better than to think. And we’d been married 25 years. Married men should have more sense. I stifled a sigh. I should probably have done a better job of stamping that unpleasant character out of him.

“Look, when I was young, we lived in houses, not apartments. We walked on the streets physically, met people face to face, and went to events. And do you know how people used to judge us? ‘That colour doesn’t look good on you!’ ‘You look tired. What’s wrong?’ ‘You look very healthy. Have you put on weight?’ And they had to know everything about where we went, who we went with, what we did … oh god! It used to be so irritating.”

“Yesterday, I saw your post on Facebook.” Have mercy! The man had switched tracks. How irritating!

“You’d posted a selfie you took with your friends at our family wedding.”

Duh-huh! Didn’t he know the Gen philosophy? This is like the Zen philosophy, except that it is the philosophy of the ‘GenZ’ generation: if something can’t be posted, Tweeted, Instagramed, blogged, or WhatsApped, don’t bother doing it. You show off to the world on Facebook and on select groups on WhatsApp. You complain about things on Google, and you philosophise about everything on your blog. This is the Mantra.

“And you’d received a lot of likes and comments on it.” Double duh!

“It was a nice picture! Where is the problem?”

“Somebody had even posted that you were looking ‘very healthy!’ with a couple of wink-wink emojis.”

I began to get a faint glimmer of where he was going. The man was making a point. Damn! I so hate it when people have points for counter-argument.

“So, people are still judging you, aren’t they?”

It had taken me umpteen kilobytes of memory and two hours to figure out which one of the 538 pictures to post. And yes, I knew that in spite of the likes and smiley faces, people were judging me unfavourably, too. They would go into their WhatsApp groups with their special friends or call each other, and ridicule my Facebook post. How did I know that? Well, you might say that I too had a few special friends, kind of like that … and … we spoke occasionally …

“At least, nobody is directly looking at me,” I said sulkily. I so hate it when people come up with real counter-arguments to my point of view.

“By the way, have you seen the ‘Smoker’ and the ‘Swach Bharath’ today?” he asked. He was switching tracks again, but this time I was happy about it. For one thing, I was losing the argument. There was also another reason. When we bought our apartment, there was a vacant lot next to our building. Unfortunately, a big apartment came up on it, with full occupancy. My husband and I hated it but occasionally amused ourselves by giving ‘pet names’ to different occupants whom we could see from our balcony.

A woman in the third-floor apartment dusts her balcony every day, so she is ‘Swach Bharath’.

On the floor above is a man who comes to the balcony to smoke — the ‘Smoker’. There is also a ‘Studyer’, ‘the Kid’, ‘the Foot-injury’, and ‘the Sari Hanger’. It was fun to sometimes speculate on the lives of those people.

I grinned. “Oh, yes! ‘Swach Bharath’ did her round, then the Kid came out to look at the monkeys. I saw them when I sat down to have my coffee,” I said cheerfully.

“And they saw you sitting down to have your coffee,” he said.

I opened my mouth … then shut it.

Lakshmi out.