The slithering lapses of household chores have taken a heavy toll on Maya. She enters the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea. To her chagrin, the sugar container is empty and she forgets to stock it too. Without the sugary tea, it would be a herculean task to proffer her perpetuities under the pile of roof she lives in. She enlivens up to mend some sugar from her neighbour Asha; an indulgence they often cherish, following a rendition of chit-chats scaling from the honey suckles spread in the balcony to the dried Tulsi leaves.
Maya flows her legs under the parallel pleats of her Sari to reach the neighbour’s door for sugar and the luxury to talk. Asha hands her a bowl of sugar. They fondly memorize the last time Asha had asked some ‘wheat flour’ and instead of returning the empty bowl, a succulent fish curry was graciously slipped into the same bowl and returned to Maya. This time, Maya is eager to give her a taste of a new recipe. The bonhomie is evident and the piquant taste of it is carried by each to add some flavour when they meet next time.
‘Maya and Asha’ – The neighbours that were once a comfort in distress, do they really exist today?
Does the impromptu knock on the door now is by the once fondly neighbour or a quest by the stenchous traveller to collect the garbage? Or, the intolerable funky delivery boy handing over the food supplies?It seems like ages that the next door neighbour has given an ebullient nod or imposed the burgeoning desire to hob-nob.
I hardly know my neighbour and don’t wish to either. No specific reason but definitely there is some undisputed rationale behind the laxity that has made me more withdrawn. I am also sure that the same parody of strait-laced pernickety plays in their mind too. Now, the two bolted doors talk to each other reminiscing a decade back camaraderie when barging in each other’s privacy and the ‘barter syndrome’ was not an aberration.
Today, our roguish minds don’t approve of the waggish talks and a tet-a-tet of personal ambitions with our neighbours. Our presence and perusals have become rather tenebrous—we loom in the corridors of the neighbourhood lane as veneer ghost, vacuous in our acknowledgements. And, confounding it may sound; an imperceptible nod is the only profundity that sharpens our hubristic glee.
The problem is not that the bowl of sugar cannot be filled or the law of attraction ceases to exist. Our mundane existence still encroaches on our bellies, however we have lost the flavour of being souciant sandpipers. We have become like self-sustained parrots in a cage, pretending to love our captivity and an unapproachable rodomontade that suits our priggish profligacy.
Today, Maya has avenues to dump her loathing and detangle herself from the lugubrious settlements of life. She does not require an ‘Asha’ to talk fervently as an escape from the intolerable prisms. The ‘bowl of sugar’ now does not crave the serenity of a neighbours concern; it priggishly remains empty till the ‘Groffers’ or a ‘milk basket’ knocks at the door like a dead pan therapist presenting a solution with no strings attached.
So, how the heels have levelled up to a mere ‘hello’ between ‘Asha’ and “Maya’? Isn’t it the finest peel of the fruit that denudes the anachronism of being relevant as neighbours? A carte blanche, the women of today are experiencing. It was always the women who created this neighbourhood sovereignty; though not making men seem like a ‘no use’ clatter but this is how we have seen our mothers and their mothers keeping a close tab on what’s happening next door.
The juxtaposition to add a velocity of temperamental opinion, which was then limited to household pedigree has now manifested as an incorrigible power to be less dependent on another mind. It would be honest to say that with bolstering financial income comes power, an eye for envy. How many times do we involve our neighbours during exigencies or drop a key if going on a vacation? With a harrumphed throat, we find comfort in our own doctrines to hit the curvy ball. Let the milk pouches lie solemnly on the floor and the pile of newspapers a wasp of connectivities; it does not grab the passer-by’s attention, it’s better to wait for the master to get us in.
Egomaniacal pursuits fall here; informing would be equivalent to take an obligation which may have to be returned, so better take none.
If ‘Maya’ and ‘Asha’ meet today, the pretentious folly to exaggerate one’s life style will take precedence rather than the soft palatable reckoning to absorb each other’s distress and happiness. The communication would too come to an abrupt end the moment the lift drops incoherently to the ground.
Neighbourhood today is compartmentalized by a formal diction of ‘catch-up’, ‘do come for tea’, ‘it’s good to see you’ and bla blabla…
If not sugar, Maya can still knock at the door and wish a ‘Diwali Greeting’ or imperturbably say,
“The milk pouches were lying outside your door for the past 2 days. Thought to keep it in my fridge, handing over to you.”