Techi Nimi began her occasional column for the Open Dosa a few weeks ago with her reflections on happy school-teachers. From this week on, her column has a title: One NimiT. In this week’s piece, she glowers at the notion of some outsiders being more unequal than other outsiders.
In the month of May, when Bangalore’s summer decided to compete with Delhi’s, my friend and I shared a common instinct to move to a new house with air-conditioning facility.
The other reason for this move was because the ground floor lady couldn’t tolerate the sound of the wooden pestle beating against the mortar when we prepared chutney. For most Northeast Indians, chutney is a must. Without it your food is incomplete. Excluding chutney from our food was unthinkable; also the heat from both parties (the sun and the aunty) grew unbearable, so we decided to change the house itself.
Within a week’s span, the broker we hired did the job he always does and found us a beautiful, fully furnished flat, which offered everything we asked for, particularly AC.
This house like its name was a paradise. I adored this place and had already started imagining myself living in it. I fell in love with it even more given its location. It would take me a maximum of 3 minutes to reach the college gate. Another couple minutes till the humanities block. And then, depending on the energy I desire to make use of that morning, few more minutes to climb up the stairs to get to my class.
College IDs- Checked.
Aadhar cards- Xeroxed.
Deposit- In lakhs.
And then, keys in hands.
Moving to a new house is like getting a new life. You assume that all the mistakes you made in the previous ones are forgiven and will not be repeated again. I invested in a mixer-grinder this time to ensure that.
Fast forward to last week, the watchman handed me an official looking set of papers on my return from college. Much to my disbelief, it was a four-page complaint letter written by the Assamese lady living below our flat, signed by the society’s secretary, a Bengali, along with some other signatures, which, I didn’t bother to care for. It was only at that moment that I realized that we were living in a society.
Prior to this, the secretary had given us a warning not to cook Bamboo shoots and Akhuni (fermented soya beans). He said that the whole building was disturbed by the smell it produced.
“It is intolerable”, he said.
I then wondered if I should tell him about the choking sensation we experience whenever they put “tadka” in their Daal or about the fishy odour of the fish they fried on most days.
“If you are living in India, then you should be prepared to get any kind of smell in any corner of the country and tolerate it”. This, I said to myself in my head and let it go because I loved this place and didn’t want to stretch the matter further.
The letter we received has the most bizarre allegations anyone could expect.
Number 1. There is loud metal banging sound every night.
(And I thought we had gotten rid of our mortar and pestle. Does a grinder make banging sounds? I don’t think so.)
Number 2. We can hear someone dancing with her heels on at midnight, every night.
(Dear Neighbors, in order to meet my assignments’ deadlines, I have forgotten how to dance even in my dreams. I would however like to commend the degree of your imagination. With heels on. Seriously?)
Number 3. We can hear a woman screaming and breaking things in the night. We can also hear someone jumping around the whole flat. It had gone to the extent that my four-year-old daughter thinks there is a ghost living upstairs.
(Madam, either I am schizophrenic or your daughter is. I have checked my mental health a year ago and now I think your daughter should make an appointment soon. Because no one in their correct mind would suddenly decide one night to scream, jump around and break things. Or maybe there really is a ghost.)
And so the complaints go on and on. Like any normal warm-blooded mammal, I was shocked and disgusted at the moment. I screamed for real that day and asked L to come with me to discuss this with the secretary. Mr. S came out of his flat with a roti in his hand and also inside his mouth. Without even listening to what I had to say, he blasted out all that he thought of us and denied letting me keep my case.
“You people are outsiders. Don’t try to mess with the locals here”, he said this with the roti still in his mouth.
I stood amazed at his rude gesture, poor dining habits and the irony in his sentence. Isn’t he a Bengali? How is he “local” here in Bangalore? He is as “outsider” as I am. Just because most of his features tie with the locals here and none of mine does, doesn’t make him any less of an “outsider” than me.
These kinds of incidents are not new to many of us “outsiders”. It has become a part of our everyday lives in Bangalore. Once the neighbors had sent cops in my friends’ place in Adugodi. They doubted that they had been storing a dead person inside their house when they were only cooking Akhuni.
Now as I wait for the coming month to shift to a new place, I wish I could buy myself a studio near Garuda Mall and get done with this shifting-every-month thing. Thanks to Modi and his games in our states’ politics, both our parents (my roommate’s and mine) are too broke to fulfill this dream of ours.
Just kidding. It’s not because of him. I just needed to blame someone for all of this.
Poor Modiji! I shall tweet an apology to him.
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