Neighbours


Today, we have more smartphones and tablets than the number of members in a family. We sit on our couches or slouch on our beds, busy connecting with people from around the world.

But the world was not like this at all, when I was growing up. All social networking was done face to face.

We had neighbours. We grew up with them, till we went to college, got jobs, married and moved out.

We played for hours on the street, till the street lights came on. We played riotous games, and sometimes spent entire evenings looking for a missing tennis ball.

We formed numerous clubs, drawing inspiration from Enid Blyton books, and many other childrens’ movies. We put up stalls, and all kinds of shows for our parents.

We attended exhibitions of butterflies and other insects put up by the neighbourhood boys. We went into the neighbouring woods to collect eucalyptus leaves, which we used to light bonfires.

We spent all our time in and out of each others’ homes, bringing plates filled with lunch, and eating together in a friend’s garden.

We had fights, silly squabbles and long battles that sometimes lasted an entire season.

We eagerly opened boxes of yummy snacks that neighbours sent to us. We went in droves to the home where the first television made its appearance.

Image courtesy – http://www.fotosearch.com

We watched the glorious Indian Monsoon with our noses plastered to the windows – howling winds, lashing rain and falling trees.

We watched the first frost of winter, and gobbled up piping hot venn pongal that was served in the neighbourhood temple.

We knew a lot about each other and our families. We lived at a time when we got ‘live updates’ about each others’ lives.

We had lovely neighbours.

Spooky Midnight Visitor


It was the Monsoon season in India and the rain lashed mercilessly, accompanied by heavy winds that howled through door cracks and key holes, sometimes carrying thin sheets of water into the house through the cracks at the bottom of the door.

The season was characterized by days of continuous and heavy rain, that rendered umbrellas useless, as the rain changed direction with the wind. Fallen trees and power cuts were very common, as we huddled together, and played family games.

On one such night, as the rain fell in heavy sheets and the wind actually caused the windows to rattle, we went to bed early. Soon, we were fast asleep.

It must have been around 1 a.m. in the night, when the calling bell rang. We had just bought an electronic calling bell that played one of twelve tunes, in a sequence, each time someone pressed it.

Needless to say, we were startled, when it rang at this unearthly hour, playing ‘Bach’. We hugged our mom, as our Dad went to check. When he looked out of the window to see the porch, there was no one there.

My Dad called out sharply, “Who is it?” There was no reply.

The calling bell rang again. Now it played ‘Mozart’. My younger sister started crying.

We were worried if an intruder had chosen this rainy night to steal, or attack us.

My Dad secured the back door with a chair and did the same for the main door of the house. After checking all the windows, all of us went back to bed.
The incident had us worried for a few days; then, as with everything else, the worry faded, though it came back now and then to haunt us.

At the tail-end of that year’s monsoon season, we finally solved the mystery of the midnight caller.

It was yet another rainy day, with very heavy winds. The door bell rang just as we all sat down to have lunch. When we opened the door there was nobody there. While the door was still open, a heavy gust of wind blew through the house, and it was so strong that the doorbell played ‘Mozart’ again.

Phew! Our midnight visitor was the monsoon wind.