A blue polka dotted balloon drifts down into the balcony as the kids and I sit navigating our way through the digestive system. Class tests are on and the three of us seem like we’re enclosed in a cocoon, shielded off from the outside world, lost in the universe of books and notes and unyielding timetables.

That balloon is our connect with the world, proof that there exist other realities than the ones between the pages of text books. Later in the evening we hear a cheery ‘Happy birthday to you’ sung out loud. I imagine a bunch of pintsizes gathered around a table with a large birthday cake and I can’t help but smile.

That pretty much is the sum total of my relationship with my neighbours since we shifted to this new house last year. I’ve been curiously detached, not wanting to exert myself to find friends.

Unfortunately, the homes here are so positioned as to offer almost no privacy out on the balcony.

With the Virus keeping us all indoor, this connect has become a sort of socialising lifeline for me.

I hear the man upstairs talking incessantly on his phone and I find myself increasingly invested in his office politics! Was I also this consumed with office politics when I was working I wonder.

We wrinkle our noses as someone somewhere down below sits out for a smoke driving us all insane with the toxic fumes. Each day I grapple with trying to find a solution to this and each day I shy away from telling him how uncomfortable it makes us. I soften a little when I hear the melodious strains of Geeta Dutt’s Jaane Kya Tune Kahi waft in from his flat even as I continue to mull over ways to talk to him without messing our neighbourly relations.

From somewhere up above I hear a frustrated mom yell at the top of her voice and no, not for a moment do I judge her. I’ve been in her shoes more often than I’d like. ‘Hang in there,’ I want to tell her, ‘Sit, relax, take a break.’

I think back to my last run in with the children and struggle to remember what I had said in those moments of anger. I banish the thought, hoping the neighbours will understand. Just like I do.

These are unprecedented times, after all. Nothing is quite the same. Patience is increasingly scarce and yet that’s what has kept us going. Patience, kindness and a lot of love.

Hoping you find all of that and more in this new year.

24 Replies to “Neighbours”

    1. The proximity is such that I cannot not here what people are talking about. It’s a pity but that’s just the way it is. It’s kind of reassuring. A pity you don’t have neighbours, though I wouldn’t mind the privacy.

  1. Tulilka, the sounds of people is all that I can say. i am moving into a new house as well and somehow I seldom have much of an inclination to actively involve in any sort of neighbour friendships. Has this whole lockdown and covid made us all introverts? Have we become more comfortable anad satisfied with little sounds and sights that probably people are around us? Really dont know. But its indeed profound thought for the soul!

  2. Loved reading your lovely post, Tulika. The proximity to the neighbours is so vividly described. Especially loved your kindness and your sense of empathy in the way you describe what so many of us are going through during these unprecedented times, and in ways that we might never have imagined in the wildest of our dreams. I do hope you and the kids will take the time to chill out after the exams are over. It is tough to stay put for months together like we did last year without the situation taking a toll on us mentally. But, let’s say we are wiser and forewarned this year, so we’ll devise better ways of coping with whatever life throws at us now.
    Take care, Tulika.
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    1. Yes we’re better prepared this year, systems have been put in place and Godwilling the virus shall leave us alone. I’ve learnt to value so many things that I sued to take for granted, specially the people around me and the freedom to strike up friendships.

  3. What a deeply vested post Tulika. I loved how you have mentioned not just the noise/chat, etc but your ruminations over it all.

    I can relate to the smoke smell as its something I have been encountering for past 4 years that I have been living here. I am on the FF n below my flat is the parking bay where the housekeeping staff sits down to have lunch, relax, listen to loud stuff on the phone and smoke bidis. Every corner of my house and all 4 balconies get the smoke smell everyday between 1-2 pm and so often I have thought of requesting them not to or putting a request in the main office but then I dont.

    Hope we both preserve with our noses and sanity over this 🙂

    Thankfully there is some privacy in the balcony, though in winters (thats the only season, I venture to sit in the balconies which are other wise over run with my arch enemy- the lizards) I hand over quilts, blankets, etc to sun which puts me in a cosy cocoon from prying eyes.
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    1. Ha ha lizards! I learnt to be friends with them quite early in life. But I can imagine how they would freak you out. I do envy you the sun though. We barely get any of it on our balcony. That’s something I rue all the time, specially in the cooler season.

  4. Such a lovely post! Makes me nostalgic for those times I used to sit in my balcony back home in Mumbai. Here the single family houses offer an isolation that can get lonely, especially during times like these.

  5. These sure are unusual times. You’re right, patience and kindness is the need of the hour. We’re fortunate that we have such colorful neighbours here in India. I can’t imagine how dull it would have been otherwise during this pandemic.

  6. Tulika,
    What a lovely post. I’m just imagining what it would be like to sit on a balcony surrounded by neighbors. It sounds like a way to bring hope and connection, even during these days. (in spite of the smoking!) Your patience and kindness, as well as that of your neighbors, is sustaining and comforting, I’m sure. God be with you all!
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    1. When the weather is conducive we often stay a lot out in the balcony. The lack of privacy bothers us occasionally but we’ve learnt to take it in our stride. And it definitely does provide a connection with our neighbours.

  7. It’s interesting to me the increase in connections with neighbors. I live in a rural area with few neighbors! Lines that speak the truth to me: nothing is quite the same and what has kept us going: patience, kindness and a lot of love…

    1. Thank you Patricia. It is always a bit of a struggle to be patient. Since I had my twins I’ve come to value its virtues more than ever.

  8. Getting along with the neighbors can be a challenge, but those can be some of the best relationships! It sounds like you’ve got quite a collection of potential friends–thank you for sharing them with us!

  9. Your use of sensory imagery to show the proximity of your neighbors is powerful: the birthday balloon drifting down, phone conversations overheard, the smell of cigarettes. It’s such an interesting contrast to be both physically close to and emotionally distant from neighbors.

    1. Thank you Amy for that insightful comment. That’s exactly how it is. I do hope to remedy the situation and get to know the people around me.

  10. You are right, patience is scarce, but it’s patience that’s going to help us all see the finish line.

    Like you, I moved recently. I’m still trying to get to know my neighbors, but it’s hard when you’re supposed to stay at home as much as possible. Hoping for more interaction once we get vaccinated.

    1. The Covid situation messed with all of us. It’s hard to make friends when you shouldn’t even be stepping out of your home. Thanks Stacey for taking all that trouble to comment.

  11. A beautiful and so very relatable post, dear OM 🙂
    Patience and kindness, especially towards self is much needed. That translates to patience towards all else is what I’m learning…
    Thank you for the reminder and wish you all the best in this new year 🙂

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On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Unfinished #BookReview

Unfinished #BookReview

Priyanka, with her grit and her determination, as also her ability to stand up to all kinds of trolling and bullying, has always been inspirational. Everything about her seems to spell, ‘Say what you will, I’ll do my own thing’. To me, that’s the greatest kind of freedom anyone can ever aspire for. And that’s what prompted me to pick up her biography.