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LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

When I die , I don’t want to be burnt. I once , burnt my fingers and didn’t like it. So I assume , being burnt wouldn’t be a very pleasant experience. I would rather be buried , you know , in some nice quiet corner of an out of the way graveyard , a little away from the others. But not too far away of course – graveyards are scary places after all , you wouldn’t want to wander away all by yourself . But yeah , I would want to keep some distance from the others , you know , privacy is important and just because one is dead , I don’t see any reason why one shouldn’t still exercise it. And perhaps the epitaph on my tomb could read , “He wanted to be left alone – you might as well.” And I hope people respect what is written on the epitaph and leave me the hell alone.

I am a private person. I like my space. I do not have an overwhelming urge to make friends . And even with the few I make , I would expect to have my space respected. I like to have thoughts , that are entirely mine and I don’t want to be an open book. I guess , I am the type , who likes to have secrets , not because of anything else , but just because he can. But then , such an attitude towards life , can easily be interpreted as indicative of a hostile and anti social tendency. And I have been called that many times. Growing up in a joint family , I have heard it many times , from my cousins. But somehow , this need for privacy has always prevailed over censure of any kind. Perhaps for me , its like an anchor , you know , some thing that gives me a sense of control over my life. And , censure or no censure , I would be loath to give it up.

The problem with people , in my opinion , is that there are too many of them. Just look around you , they seem to be everywhere. And the bigger problem is , most of them like to make their presence felt. And felt strongly at that. It is almost like , they fear , that they would fade out of existence otherwise. And it can get very annoying. Have you ever wanted to settle down quietly with a book , in that long train journey , only to have a pesky elderly gentleman , interested in the details of your life? Or a noisy family , sharing the compartment with you , who insists on offering you their food , and in return expect you to tolerate their anecdotes of a cousin in the US? Or a neighbor perhaps , who insists on helping you , and to your horror , you realize that  in return ,you are expected  to tolerate their annoying kids? That’s what I am talking about. And what makes it all the more irritating is the fact that most of these people are very well meaning.

By now , you must have realized that I am not a very people  person. I am a manager , by profession , yes , but a reluctant one at that. And people annoy me easily , particularly , people who try to get too friendly too fast. There are various gradations in the level of annoyance that is caused by people. But in my book  , the following would be the most annoying, in that order:-

1)      Neighbors- in general

2)      Neighbors with kids , between the ages of 3 and 10

3)      Neighbors who try to get too friendly

4)      Neighbors with kids between the ages of 3 and 10 , who try to get too friendly.

The last category , let me tell you , from unfortunate experience , is the worst of all. Intolerable beyond belief. . It is like the worst combination you could think of ever. Is the rat poison ready? Yes …Okay shake it up with some cyanide just to be sure…. You know , something like that..

Now there is nothing wrong with kids , they are nice , they are cute – under certain conditions. You know , like , from a distance , in photographs , when not crying , when not trying to scribble on your favorite novel , when not hungry , when not thirsty , when not in need of having to go , when not upto mischief – the list goes on.  When anybody says , “I just looove ..kids “ , I am always tempted to ask , “specify your conditions.” Because I find it impossible to love kids unconditionally. And it becomes worse , when these kids belong to your neighbor. Allow me to illustrate.

There were these neighbors I had once. A couple with kids. Nice people. They were from MP. And it so happened that the lady did not know the local language and knew how to speak only Hindi. Me and my mom spoke Hindi , and this unfortunately , was taken as a sign by her that we should be friends forever. And so it all started. The couple started coming over to our place , started inviting us over to theirs , soon my mom and the lady were swapping recipes and exchanging dishes and in general being good neighbors and irritating the hell out of me. It was not so bad when my mother was around.. My mother lives with me only for small periods of time and rest of the time she is traveling. And so it became worse , when my mother was not around. The nice lady insisted that she would cook for me , and that I should eat at their place and so on. Now all this was fine , still tolerable. It wouldn’t have been such a bad deal , if it were not for their kid who was thrown in as part of the deal.

Yes , they had a kid. Yes , he was between the ages of 3 and 10. And yes , he was the cute but annoying kind. You know , the type you just can’t stand after  like the first 5 minutes. He was loud , he was mischievous . Now one might say , isn’t that what is to be expected from a kid so young? Yes , but allow me to submit  that , there is nothing more irritating in the world than other people’s kids being annoying at your expense. Trouble is, you cant do anything about it. If it were your kid , you could have done something. Now with the neighbor’s kid , yelling at him , is totally out. That wouldn’t be considered very polite. And in these situations , the parents take offence . It’s almost like you have yelled at them. And if yelling is out , the more extreme forms of physical punishment , are automatically out , otherwise , I would have loved to spank once in a while. And hence , all you can do is politely grin and bear. And that’s exactly what is taken advantage of.

Remember , your only chance of survival , are by acting distant and aloof , not with the kids but with the neighbors themselves. But in this case , that of course , was out. Before I even knew it , I was calling the lady Bhabhi , and the kid was calling me Chachu. And that , my friends , is a line never to be crossed. Once , these imaginary relationships are forged , once the kid starts calling you chachu or bhaiyya , you are trapped. You are obliged to be nice to him. You are expected to smile indulgently , when he annoys you . You are just back from work , and would like nothing more than sitting in front of the TV and laze ? And the kid comes barging in. How you wish you could yell at him , and send him back. Oh no , that not possible anymore . As bhabhi would say , “Ohhh , chotu likes you so much , he always waits for you to come back from office” , you are expected to smile , and at least for the sake of politeness , tousle his hair a little . You want to settle down , with that book of yours , on a Sunday , that you have been meaning to read for a while? How will you , fulfill your wish , when the kid is running all over the house , shouting , pestering you , asking to be taken out , and trying to grab your book from your hands. And hell , he is not even your own kid

And then bhabhi would come in , you look hopefully at her , expecting to be relieved of this ordeal. But no , she would merely say ,”Hope he is not bothering you , he likes you sooo much” . You smile , and say nothing , expecting that , she would understand and whisk the kid away. But then , to your horror , she walks off , and then you realize to your horror , that she is enjoying her Sunday at the expense of yours. And so you resignedly try to resume reading , while trying to save your book from the kid’s clutches.

And so it continues , eternal punishment , for being polite.

And that is why I keep saying , broken condoms are to be feared.

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