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Neighborly Communications

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by Agatha83, May 16, 2019 at 11:00 AM.

  1. Agatha83

    Agatha83 Finest Post Winner

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    I grew up in a neighborhood where small independent houses, stood majestically, nestled amid a canopy of Avenue trees, the fresh morning air pregnant with the pungent aroma of blooming flowers, a pleasant scenario which always gave one a heady feeling of having stepped into a heaven.

    Separated by a chain fence from neighboring houses, we didn’t have any difficulty in communicating with our neighbors. We had neighbors who were nephews and nieces of ruling ministers of those times, as well as those serving the police department but none of them exhibited their show of pomp or power during their period of stay. Thus our Sunday’s tasty Vengaya sambar and potato roast were exchanged for their fluffy mouth watering vegetable biryanis —a day we all waited in great anticipation with an insatiable appetite. The henna leaves from the trees in our garden, were turned into beautiful intrinsic designs on our palms by the artistic Muslim women next door. Most of the movies we watched, were on free passes offered by our next door police neighbors. Thus we lived in a wonderful community bereft of jealousy or envy, the likes of it which I could never find again!

    After marriage, due to shifting of residences in to deep interiors of India, it was a completely shocking change for me, be it culture, language or customs. The neighbors, most of them married women with kids, talked to me in an adult language, punctuated by their naughty body language and boisterous laughter, which was far beyond my comprehension, due to my age and language barrier. Though I was invited for Satyyanarayana Pooja, an event which was performed frequently in most houses, I never relished the invite. What should have been a spiritual occasion to invoke Gods blessings, in fact, turned out to be a casual meeting between ladies for mindless gossiping, mostly related to latest household acquisitions or surreptitious exchange of news, about newly marrieds being in the family way, a frequent embarrassing question always put forward to me by the women. Even if I was down with a slight fever, the entire group of women would turn up at my house with fruits, soup, kichdi etc, in anticipation of some sweet news of the stork visit! Despite the fact that I was speaking Butler English which none could understand, the ladies always revered me for my convent English, calling me convent didi!

    After a few years of shifting places, I was back to my dear old chennai, but with a lot more maturity enhanced by my few years of experience of living in rural towns. The first rental house neighbor was a Telugu family, who hardly spoke a word of Tamil. But it was my friendly nature which broke the language barrier. When they casually borrowed a cup of coffe powder, sugar , curd etc initially terming it as an emergency, I happily obliged them. But then when it turned to be a daily occurrence with none of the borrowed items being returned, I became wiser. When asked about the issue politely, they would instantly transform into a dementia patient, sporting a vacant look, and look like someone lost in the crowd!

    I had a hand sewing machine, with which I used to alter my blouses, petticoats etc. Sitting in the drawing room I would carry out the occasional mending of my clothes. One day seeing this, my neighbor wanted to help me out with her oversized blouse, which I readily obliged. But the next day I was shocked to see them knocking my door with an oversized bundle of clothes, which I felt was one on the way to the laundry. My heart skipped a beat when they proudly announced that the bundle was in fact clothes they wanted me to mend. They left my premises with a polite message to take my own time. When I realized how my helping nature was taken for granted by people who totally lacked even an iota of civility, I returned the clothes with an apology that my sewing machine was under repair which would take more time. Sure there were broken hearts and broken relationships, which never bonded till the time of my leaving the place.

    When I shifted to my own apartment, which was one on the third floor, I had young couples, mostly working in banks, as neighbors who used their home just as a stop over between their working hours. Right from collecting their registered post, couriers, and laundry, I also had the additional responsibility of overseeing the work of their cleaners, taking charge of their house keys and handing it over to their FIL, BIL etc in their absence.

    A year after my settling down in my new flat, a new Telugu couple occupied the flat opposite to me. Not knowing Tamil was no deterrent in communicating, because the lady spoke fluent English. With her DH going on long tours due to his job, she had plenty of spare time to chat. She had a cute two year old son, absolutely mischievous, ready to pull out anything he laid his hands on.

    This lady would just leave her kid under my care at my home, with a promise that she would finish her household chores within a few minutes and then take him back. But when minutes turned into hours, my lovely pastime turned into an infinite frustration. Lifting the child, who was a chunky one weighing like a junior Md Ali, was sure enough to sap my energy levels. But hey, there was a positive side to this part of daily routine. Yes, there was no need to go to the gym and sweat it out lifting weights and tone my sagging arms!

    When the occasional help turned in to a forced labor, I decided to call it quits citing my failing health conditions, I slowly got out of an unnecessary obligation which sure ensured me some reprieve but also caused serious heartburns, with an invisible coldness creeping into our warm communication!

    Grinding idli batter, taking my neighbors MIL to doctor, looking after the house during her hospitalization, be it a marriage or a funeral, I was always there for my neighbors, lending a helping hand.

    There were neighbors who kept their TV volume at the highest, from morning to night, watching those screaming serials, not bothering about the disturbances they caused to their neighbors. Even a polite plea to reduce the volume levels went unheard because they were stone deaf!

    Amid all this annoying experiences I had to deal with my neighbors, there came a frustrating experience, a serious issue, where I had to seek the help of my neighbors. When my DD got an international scholarship for higher studies, getting a Tatkal passport within 15 days, was just like experiencing a real James Bond film in reality, with the time ticking away, and nobody from the higher hierarchy ready to pitch in to attest her identity, because she was a minor. When 2 days were just left for the last day of submitting the documents, a distant neighbor to whom I poured out my woes, immediately took my hand and said “ I will help you”. And help she did which paved a solid way towards a bright future for my DD, and it was that day that my trust in humanity returned!

    Shifting of residences, and personal commitments have rendered me an absolute incommunicado, but an occasional peep through the obituary columns, sometimes leaves me sad, for there staring at me, are some smiling faces of my close neighbors, with whom I had the some of the best relationships. I offer a silent prayer, and move on to my routine activities, my mind numbed with a hurricane of sad thoughts and emotions!
     
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  2. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Really fascinating read, Agatha. I often think back to the neighbours of yore and the family like bond one shared with them. Yes, there would be ups and downs but one was at least assured that they were there to help. In fact in Pune, neighbours were our only family. No doubt, there would be free loaders (of course, we were blessed not to have that kind of neighbours, but one can well imagine there would be many of those too), but today we have them without any kind of personal touch. They happily come over to ask for help, at other times one never knows who or where they are. Never a hello, never an 'are you alive'. In fact in a society, it is so anonymous, the local adda carries news of some neighbour who died and one does not have the vaguest idea of who this person was. Days of auld lang syne.
     
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  3. saileela85

    saileela85 Senior IL'ite

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    @Agatha83 Beautiful writeup...its mix of fill emotions ...keep it up...
     
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  4. shyamala1234

    shyamala1234 Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Agatha,
    Very well written over how things changed from time to time. Yes, when we were little our neighbours were different... All sorts. Pluses and minuses. Helpful, taking advantage and many types as you mentioned. Many times it used to be mutual. A sort of communal living. But now we hardly know neighbours. It is a sort of Hi, how are you and on. In apartment complexes we meet only near the lift. But if some need or emergency is there and knock.... they are helpful.
    Syamala
     
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  5. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Agatha,

    Thank you for your wonderfully narrated experience. I am so happy that finally your belief in the humanity got restored due to someone helping you to get your DD's passport through Tatkal Scheme. Your last paragraph brought tears and I know how hard it is to digest a neighbor who lived close to us earlier passes away and we come to know that through newspaper.

    Your early age experience (before marriage) neighborhood indeed is a very enviable neighborhood. So, you were living in the company of some higher ups all the times with perquisites attached with that. It is so sad to know that interior India instead of treating you nicely and welcome you with whole heart, spoke and conducted themselves in a way that was embarrassing to you. Perhaps, they didn't know much about the conservative style of upbringing in the city of Chennai even though they are from rural background.

    Back in Chennai again, the Kutty Bheema experience is very unique. I remember a joke where a person put some nicely packed coffee powder, sugar and a few other essential outside his flat with a note, "those who have forgotten to buy or for any other reason compelled to borrow from their neighbors, please help yourselves. Please let us enjoy some privacy". In general, it appears takers appear to be countless when compared to givers.

    Keep those wonderful snippets coming and we enjoy reading them!
     
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  6. Agatha83

    Agatha83 Finest Post Winner

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    Thank you satchi for being the first one to comment on my post. As one who grew up in an atmosphere where neighbors were closer than relatives, I feel the indifference shown by the new generation of neighbors utterly disappointing. Leave alone the neighbors, communication between members of a family itself, has completely lost its personal touch, thanks to the social media. All the emojis, smileys cannot equate the affection you show personally.

    Agatha83
     
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  7. Agatha83

    Agatha83 Finest Post Winner

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    Thank you saileela for your appreciation. Hope to keep it up!

    Agatha83
     
  8. Agatha83

    Agatha83 Finest Post Winner

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    Dear Shyamala,

    I see people on the roads deeply engrossed in their mobiles, not having time to appreciate the nature around them or in a mood to have a real conversation. No need to say even a hello, what does one loose by putting up a smiling face. Sure, Everyone is racing against time, but when you are old and alone, you will crave for those real human voices and human touch.

    Agatha83
     
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  9. Agatha83

    Agatha83 Finest Post Winner

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    Dear Viswa,

    My grandpa had a collector as his close friend, and using this collector’s influence got an independent house, 7 decades back. Thus we had influential people as our neighbors, though financially we couldn’t match them in any way.
    Fresh as I was from my college, the behavior of these ladies who were all part of a community or members of ladies club, who loved gossiping, and were on back slapping terms within themselves, made me uneasy. Being a small rural town with no entertainment, this was the only way they could entertain themselves. But I felt like a fish out of water. They didn’t know anything about Chennai or any other city, except lippusticku!
    I think a ‘Do not Disturb’ or a sign board ‘‘Beware of Dogs’ would be more appropriate for the present times, to keep away people. When I see people barking like dogs at strangers for disturbing their peace, I feel even the dogs have better civility!

    Agatha83
     
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  10. jayasala42

    jayasala42 IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Agatha,
    Who else other than Agatha can give such an interesting account of the neighbourhood experience.
    Why to talk of neighbours? In joint families it is quite common that a cousin uses your clean pressed uniform and shoes and leaves you in problem? A common thing is to take the geometry box and colour pencils, slate or balappum .For many a function ,my cousin would wear the pattu pavadai or silk blouse and make you cry. The generosity or daakshanyam would stand in your way of asking.
    'daakshanyam dahana naasam' is the saying.In villages borrowing coffee powder or sugar was quite common. Another one was 'paatala karandi' that is used to take out things fallen into the well. That pathala karandi would never come back and we would be blinking when some object falls into our well.
    In chennai, they borrow things like crow bar,mud remover and sometimes broom stick also.
    My neighbour planted mango, ashoka and other trees very near to the fence, of course in his ground. All the leaves fell into our plot making a nuisance.We had to sweep all the leaves. Only if the branches have occupied our plot we can politely ask them to cut off the branches.
    Leaves are nature's products and we have no authority or control.The neighbour may very well say,"I didn't ask the tree to shed the leaves on your ground. If possible go and tell the tree".
    One of our friends , a post master, ( he had no issues) voluntarily helped a child of 10- a handicapped boy),took the child in his scooter and dropped him in the school daily.That was really a great help at the peak hour.On the unfortunate day, near Guindy, a water tanker came in the wrong direction and hit the scooter.The child died on the spot.The post master was in unconscious state for four days. When he recovered.he was informed of the death of the child. He went to console the parents who in their mental agony abused the person for causing the death of the child and that as he was childless he might not realise the mental agony of parents. The postmaster came home. All his help for the two years had gone waste and now he stood as a criminal. he could not digest the happenings.Within ten days he died of stroke.

    Too much of generosity is like throwing mud on yourself.
    People are ready to take help and may not hesitate to turn the plate on the opportune moment.Sometimes it appears that it is better to say a blunt 'No' on one's face.But many of us are not used to such harsh expressions.
    Two years back our neighbour started constructing flats in his plot. The approval was as per norms. But when the actual construction started, they extended the building on our side just to gain 300 s.ft on each floor.
    I told him tens of times that being a civil Engineer he knows the rules and it is unbecoming on his part to transgress the rules.He told me that he is building it only after getting permission from Corpn and If needed I can make a complaint to AE ( in writing) .When my husband met AE,(the previous AE had been transfeerred)to Coimbatore,he took immediate action and stalled the construction.We had incur so much of curses,throwing the mud etc and we had so many threatening calls.Meanwhile the other side neighbour also lodged a complaint. After nearly a year, the neighbour had to demolish the twelve pillars and had to fit into the plan.
    For nearly one year we had to face threats.
    Now the building is almost over.That gentleman came home a month back and apologised for what all happened and said that he was wrongly guided by Corpn officials.
    I had to read lot of CMDA rules and regulations in this connection.
    Problems are in plenty, not only between neighbouring houses, but stiff competition exists between neighbouring schools, neighbouring shops in jewellery and textiles and even among vegetable vendors ,not to talk of water distribution between neighbouring states.A neighbour should never be too close nor too far. Still we are learning lessons at every event .We are learners for ever.If we try to mend our ways in a particular issue, another problem will be waiting in the Q needing altogether a different type of solution.

    Jayasala 42
     

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