In my hometown, Thirunelveli actually, we leave the front door open all day, all night. Neighbors walk in whenever they want. The older members are usually buddies. The younger ones are fast becoming. All in all, it’s a healthy atmosphere, of trust, of friendship.
In Mumbai, its unheard of. Knowing the name of your neighbor is considered a very big deal. Inviting them over for lunch? That’s not possible unless you’re relatives or something.
Fact is, in times of urgency, its not relatives, not friends, but neighbors who can help you the most. Hence, its necessary to have a good relationship with your neighbors. I’ve lived in some flats, five to be exact. Each building had a different neighborhood, obviously. My first house was in a place called Chembur. We lived among South-Indians. So being South-Indians ourselves, we obviously bonded. We used to have competitions during festival times, all kids went to the same school, all grandmas were each other’s girlfriends, all grandpas met every evening for their daily politics session, all the men had weekend group dates for movies, and all the ladies were recipe exchangers. Quite a fun filled time we had there.
Everyone has shifted out of there now. Everyone is new, but they still do all that we used to do. Good for them.
Then we shifted to a small bungalow type house in Andheri. Quite peaceful, to the point of being cut off from the busy city life. There’s a lawn there, and its much, much bigger than the house itself. Around three times bigger. So gardening was one little hobby we had. The neighbors were fine. But not the type we could rely on. I hated them, but I played with their kids anyway for lack of anyone else to hang out with.
Next place? A tiny little flat in Vakola. Well, I can say without hesitation that we lived our happiest times there. Not all neighbors were friendly, but those that were, were gems. At least I knew everybody there. Beautiful people… the lady who lived directly above us, used to celebrate the Ganapati festival with great pomp every year. We’d land up in her house and sing songs with her; we’d bond with her kids and eat some really scrumptious goodies. She was a dear friend. We’re still in touch, but unfortunately we always miss her Ganapati celebrations. We’ll try harder this time.
Later, we shifted to a rental house in Andheri itself. Worse. We became the typical suburban-Mumbai-family. We hardly knew the names of our neighbors. They didn’t know us either. None of us tried to find out. We were all too busy, or we feigned it, to avoid getting to know anyone.
And finally to where we live now. I love my neighborhood. We’ve had our biggest family crisis so far here, and the neighbors were absolute gems. There’s an old Gujarati couple living right across the door. Lovely people. We share food during festivals, they come over sometimes. We’re buddies. On one occasion, we had a lot of guests and we couldn’t really use the kitchen for some reason. This lady made tea and brought snacks continuously from morning to evening. I can never forget what she did for us.
There’s another family that lives above us, and the old lady there, adores Devdan. Since we don’t cook non vegetarian food in our house (for stupid reasons), she brings a bowl of what she cooks every time she cooks something non-veg for us. And lovely food at that. She’s helped us a lot too. There were times when Devdan and I had to be alone in the house and she used to bring us breakfast. She took care of us. I can’t tell you how much I love her. We have many more neighbors, and all of them are absolutely sweet.
Why am I writing all this now? Well, I’m going to be shifting again. I realized how much I’ll miss my neighbors. I honestly don’t want to go, but then fate decided for me…
I’m hoping that I can have a similar bond with all my new neighbors too. I love walking down the street and meeting a known face, smiling up at them, getting the same back, chatting up, playing with the younger kids, pulling the cheeks of toddlers. I must say, I’m getting rather fond of the pranks that the pesky kids play on me nowadays. 😉
So, to my awesome neighbors, lets hope for the bond of a lifetime. (Clink :P)