She was the one you could go to…
When you wanted to pick a fight with your neighbour without actually starting it yourself. A few well aimed barbs whispered in her ear, and then you just had to wait ten minutes. That’s the time it took for your message to be delivered.
She always knew what was going on…
She was the one who came to tell you that your car had been stolen just after you’d waved goodbye to the thief. Because you were so busy sitting in your balcony having a good laugh with your family, that you thought a relative was waving to you and driving your car away.
She knew who visited whom, and what their business was. She had a job and she did it very enthusiastically, even though she was not paid a salary. She kept an eye on everyone around. Because she was really nosy. And also, because deep down inside, she cared.
She kept us all safe…
Because everyone knew there was always someone watching.
She was a nuisance…
Because she reported every minor transgression. Parents humoured her and then had a good laugh when she left. And they valued her, because she helped them keep track of what her kids were doing.
She’s got lost somehow in the busy world of today. And I miss her.
Who is she?
She’s a little bit of you and a little bit of me – she’s the way we all used to be. We used to be friends with our neighbours. Get in each other’s faces. Rub each other up the wrong way. But we were there for each other when it counted.
Social media and television did not exist in the Mumbai of old and we needed to bond with the community we lived in.
I’ve used a lot of artistic license here to make a point. Mumbai is changing a lot and we’re losing some of safety mechanisms we had, as we struggle to live without discord in a society where there are vast differences in standards of living and cultural attitudes.