I have lived in many buildings in the last few decades in Bombay, with the universal madness that involves living in housing societies everywhere. Sai Paranjpe or PG Wodehouse or even Kiran Nagarkar would have enjoyed any of these places—–observing from a distance of course.
All names and identities have been changed but if you recognize anyone ………ssshhhh
In one of the societies there was a cheerful neighbourhood undertaker whose grisly business was conducted in the backyard of our society and involved entrails of the embalmed resting in peace near our water supply tank.
In another place, some of the neighbours fought over cats being fed, dogs running amok on the terrace and accused each other of being Satan worshippers. There was an episode of alleged poisoning of one of the cats……..and another of a faked theft to justify adding more grills and gates.
Then there was an elderly aunty with a very matronly bosom who would walk around in her undies in summer, opening the door to all and sundry. Talk about a weapon of mass destruction. The newspaper vendor and postman used to quake in their boots when they had to climb up four floors to view that wonder of the world.
One society had a drug addict who sometimes slept under the stairs (much before that became a cool thing to do thanks to Harry Potter). To keep the addict out we had to put a lock on the main gate and this led to some serious bickering and madness over sharing the costs for one 150 Rs lock.
Some neighbouring aunties always come in their lovely designer nighties to borrow sugar or tur dal or olive oil ( yes it happens) but only when the man of the house is at home in the evenings. Who usually doesn’t know where any of these things are kept. Which of course allows for longer conversations at the door.
We also had a neighbour who had rented the place and was so terrified of being fined by the landlady for scratches on the dining table that he ate sitting on the floor for 6 months!
On the other hand, one family was very sweet to the landlord that eventually he ended up adopting them. Yes, that can also happen. They changed their surname to inherit Uncle’s property. What’s in a name, you say ?
We encountered a nose- in- the- air family who kept used petticoats in a jumble sale before moving houses. (Yuck. Please donate them if you must but NO ONE should have to BUY your USED innerwear. Seriously !)
There are some neighbours who are ultra- religious and not one day goes by when they do not post a pious sentiment or photo on the whatsapp group. These same people go dead silent when there are others posting for a donation to the Nepal earthquake victims. Apparently the gods are more pleased when you decorate their stone statues with betel leaves rather than help real living people……
So, while the media sells the FOMO and YOLO stress to us by showing everyone else partying and enjoying each other’s company more than is humanly possible (or necessary……..) and they say that no man (or woman) is an island, the truth is that as soon as anyone gets super rich the first thing they do is buy an island J
Because it is so much easier to love thy neighbours when they are out of sight and far, far away…….
PS. I read this article by Anuvab Pal on the madness that is Mumbai’s housing society and was inspired to write about my own experiences.