I live in a residential neighbourhood, in a four storeyed apartment block. The neighbouring block of apartments is almost identical and very very close. It is actually too close for comfort, with less than 10 metres between both buildings. For the long time residents, this is a source of comfort, they have loud conversations between the buildings, shout out greetings, listen to each other fight, and when there is nothing worth watching on TV they peer into my house for some reality TV.
When we first moved in, we were three girls, V, S and me, all working for the zoo offcourse. The flat on the second floor in the other building had direct visual access into our house and vice-versa. They were a huge family, with a large number of large women, a rag-tag bunch of children and a couple of surly men. Their lives had a pattern. every activity at any point in the day revolved around the television, the furniture was arranged with the television in the center. The television was the focus, and they never turned it off. Late at night, when the neighbourhood was quiet, save the occasional howling dog, and there was a silent darkness, you would see a bluish glow, an eerie flickering light from their house, from the television that was never allowed to sleep.
Their living room window overlooked ours. The women sat at the window as they chopped the vegetables, cleaned the grains, oiled and combed their hair, dutifully watching the television and during the advertisements taking a quick peek into our house. We were unnerved by their unabashed peering at first, but soon got accustomed to their presence. If you caught them staring at you and turned to stare at them, they would break into a cheerful smile and then would give you a wave. It was their way of making friends.
As we settled down, we hired Janna Bai, the neighbouring watchman’s wife to help us with the household chores. She also happened to work in the flat across. Soon it became a routine for her to greet us at the top of her lungs from the next building. On seeing us, she would exclaim loudly, rush to the window, pick up the nearest child and with beaming smiles they would wave to us with great gusto. V, S and I would be busy venting about the zoo, and would reluctantly wave back with half smiles.
Janna Bai had a strong penchant for disappearing for a several days every month. The large women would then yell into our flat, questioning her whereabouts, and slowly a comradrie grew. One evening I was trudging back from the zoo, when a little girl on a cycle pedalled furiously towards me, she stumbled of her cycle in excitement and shook my hand, repeatedly yelling ‘ didi, didi. didi” at the top of her voice. Seeing my alarmed and confused face, she quickly explained that she lived in the flat opposite, and wanted to be friends. I cannot resist such endearing affection from random children. and gave her my best smile, asked her name school ,age etc and we parted as new friends.
Then one day they packed up and left. They were there in the morning, and were gone when we came back from work .Suddenly no one was watching us eat, or do the things we do. I felt a severe sense of bereavement, and when I looked out of the window, there was an empty house, and no television. After complainging to everyone I knew about my crude neighbours, I guess I had developed Stolkholm’s syndrome.
The house remained empty for over 6 months. and finally somebody moved in. They have covered their windows with bright orange blinds, which they never open. Humpf !!!