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Monday, 5 November 2012

Nosy Neighbours

Sleep seems to have evaded me. So thought of tapping away on the keyboard and the outcome is this post.

It was only last year that we moved down to India. Having lived abroad most of our life, it has been very difficult adjusting to the way things work out here. Back in UAE we could set the schedule for a year and not have to worry about making many changes. Life was that predictable!! Save for the occasional bouts of cold or fever that came with the seasonal changes, nothing much happened that disrupted the smooth functioning of our household. 

Woaw! Things happen pretty fast here. Sometimes you can't even plan ahead for a week. An unexpected Hartal or Bandh, someones's Shaadi or a House warming, the list just goes on. But what I found most interesting living here is the scenario I have with my neighbours. Initially I was shocked by the kind of nosiness that these people showed. For me relationship with neighbours had been limited to the polite smile you shared when you crossed them, rushing out to work in the morning or while returning after a shopping expedition on the weekends. And may be the visits you made during festivals. And I could count these people on the fingers of my left hand. Here, the entire village is entitled to the "Neighbour" status. They have a right to walk in whenever they wish, and are authorized to ask you questions that range from the mundane "Cooking done?" to more nosy stuff like "Why have you decided to live here? When will you be going back? How do you carry out your work from home? How much do you pay your maid? Blah blah blah blah.........

Until very recently a typical conversation at the bus stop would ensue like this:

Neighbour: "Where are you going?"
Me: "To the town/ school (or whatever)"
If I'm accompanied by my eldest daughter (who is 13), the next obvious question is,
Neighbour: "Is this your sister?"
Me: "No my daughter" 
I'm feeling all nice and at least 5 years younger, when the bomb is dropped,

Neighbour: "Which college is she studying?" 
Me: "She's in school, 9th Std" (Feeling like a deflated balloon now)

Neighbour: "Your husband is here?" 
If my answer is yes, the question is followed by, "When did he come?"  and "When will he leave?"  
If answered with a no, the next inevitable question is, "When will he come?"
From there it moves on to grander topics. 

A female recently asked me whether we were actually from around that place, after having gleaned the fact that we were both engineers. I said yes, since my husband is from Wayanad. She immediately wanted to know the exact place where we are from. So then I go on and explain that my husband is from here, where as I'm not. Hearing that she wisely announces, "Oh, so your's is a love marriage?" I'm flabbergasted, now where did THAT come from? Even after all my explanations she doesn't seem convinced and neither does my youngest daughter who overheard the conversation. I have a feeling that no amount of clarification is going to set the story straight for either of them. My mother is going to have fits of laughter, imagining her meek and almost boring daughter, having gone out and had a love affair :D

Funny thing is you can't give these people vague answers or in any manner evade their questions, they need precise to the point answers, making you feel like you are in the witness stand being drilled by the lawyer of the rival party. I'm not a very talkative person by nature, I used to feel so threatened by the flurry of questions. A feeling akin to someone pointing a gun at my head.

I don't feel the inclination to shoot them with personal and invasive questions at my turn. But, I'm beginning to understand the way things work around here. Now I play the inexperienced outsider, keep them occupied talking about stuff like farming and means of procuring dairy and eggs easily, and rush off with excuses before they can bring up questions about my place of origin or family history or why I was out till 8 in the evening last weekend. I don't feel like a deer caught in headlights any more :D Ain't I SMART?