The Neighbour

My relationship with wooden panels dates back to college days when I stayed in a paying guest accommodation that had rooms separated by thin cardboard like panels. One could easily hear the girls in the adjacent room talk on the phone, giggle and make small talk with each other or their parents. While it was tolerable in the day, during the nights you could just bang on the panel to let them know that they could be heard. Some wouldn’t stop even then.

The second time I encountered wooden panels, it was 2 years later.

There’s a particular spot in our rented house where I like to write. It’s a comfortable sofa with a puffy to keep one’s foot on, sounds luxurious and it is one luxurious sitting spot too. The cosiest in the house, according to my mother. If there’s a downside to this spot, it has to be it’s close proximity to the dreaded wooden panel. This panel is more solid than the one in my pg in Delhi and connects the other side of the floor through an equally strong wooden door.

My neighbour is a Parsi lady of big built, short salt and pepper hair, wears spectacles, and has a friendly but usually loud voice. She lives up to the image you might have of a Parsi lady in her 50’s. My neighbour lives alone and works at a hospital during the day, takes piano lessons twice or thrice in a week and makes really good tiramisu.

Almost like a ritual, she calls up a woman, whom I will call the lady on the phone, between 8-9 in the evening. The next one hour is followed by my neighbour, gossiping, catching up and sharing trivial details of her life with the lady on the phone.

I mostly saw this as a nuisance since I find it difficult to find interest in what my neighbour ate during the day or what she plans to do after she keeps the phone. I usually didn’t cope with her conversations very well, since it would make me get up from my favourite spot. If you have ever met me at my house between the hour of 8-9, you will know that it’s not the best time to visit.

One such evening, I was sitting with my laptop struggling to come up with something to write for my blog, I had been struggling for days now. Mind you, my blog may not have readers, but publishing on it is good writing practice.

Meanwhile, from the other side of the wooden panel, I could hear a phone ringing. It was my neighbour’s call to the lady on the phone, she had put it on speaker. Before I could roll my eyes again, I started listening intently.

My neighbour went on and on, taking few breathers in between to listen to the lady on the phone. The lady on the phone had rather few inputs to give. my neighbour would start with when she woke up, what she did when she left the house for the office. My neighbour would laugh in between, mimic someone she met during her day dramatically, laugh even more loudly and the lady on the phone would follow up with an equally loud laughter. My neighbour’s peculiar habit, to keep the volume of the receiver very high, so the lady on the phone’s voice was audible, a fair mumble of words and crystal clear laughs.

My neighbour would mention the advice she gave to a person called Nazeer. Often, she would complain about her weight and her inability to lose the fat.

Sometimes, there were detailed comparisons of people’s dressing sense, with detailed comparisons or why she doesn’t use Jet Airways to fly to Bombay.

One evening, there was a bit about how one lady called Rajni has been messing around with Jyoti. I also knew that as part of her preparation for her trip to Mashobra, she had packed her warm Adidas sweater. “Maine toh Kuch Nahi Karna wahan, main Toh Apni saheli se milne ja rahi hun,” she explained, laughing.

My neighbour had met her mother one morning, she started that bit by telling her friend where her mother was sitting. She also appreciated her mother’s spontaneous nature and how she would have agreed to go for a trip to Shimla, on a short notice.

My neighbour has numerous things to say, I wonder if she uses WhatsApp like we do, constantly, to give fragmented snippets of information about our lives to various people. My neighbour, I am assuming fits all those text messages into one long hour of verbal dialogue.

Maybe I will listen again, the wooden panel, me and her unending phone balance.









Keep swimming

Every day on social media I come across various articles mentioning ways  to find motivation and get on to doing what I have to. There are also quotes strewn around like,  “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Yes, this makes sense if you are working on building a time machine, no?

I feel that reading these quotes and articles adds to the time I spend procrastinating rather than doing something. I don’t disagree that some pieces of writing, especially if they are telling a story about an individual who made it big after their struggle can be really inspiring. But we really need to filter the content that is useful from what is not. (You could say that this post is not useful. I don’t mind, not at all. Kidding, I will find you and make you pay.)

The other issue with most articles meant to motivate is that they are so conflicting. They Just the other day, (this is not an exaggeration) one post on Quora said that one should make a routine and forget everything else to crack an exam or something you really are working towards. Another Quora post 10 minutes later: ” Reasons why a scheduled plan is not the key to success.”

It makes sense when such content is backed by real life examples because then you can believe it in more, choose what fits and work towards your goal. Everybody is different. I was the nerd who used to wake up at 5:00 am in the morning, wait for my mom to bring me tea and pretend I wasn’t feeling sleepy, 4 years back. I gave up that practice in college. that’s the reason why my scores were played hide and seek throughout the 3 years.

If I really need to be motivated after a lazy session of watching something on my laptop and eating everything available in the house, I will not go ahead and read these articles. Most of them if not all, will say things like, “Watch the sunrise”, “Make yourself a hot beverage”. Agreed, nature is a powerful source of distracting ourselves and getting back on track. But sometimes, I find the city sunrises plain and unamusing, other times I am snoozing away to glory. Similarly, a cup of the best chai can fail to make me want to get up. Nike’s ‘Da-da ding’ did a better job than all this.

This is because there are junctures when you need to see people actually doing things and moving about, rather than the sun saying hi to you or your chai staring back at you getting cold with every passing second.

So, follow these ways to find motivation, because I have tried, it works (conditions apply, duh):

1.Observe an ant’s movement: Ants are really hard working creatures. They roam about our floors, don’t know where the hell they come from because my home is not made of mud, but you’ll find some hanging around the walls. They roam about in desperate search for that food crumb that you carelessly dropped.They will find it and they will take it. I often look at the process really intently. It works like this, ant 1 will go on a food run, and call ant 2 immediately when a food particle is spotted. Ant 2 will ready the army and come to the spot ASAP. All ants will say the following together, “United we stand, divided we fall”, wear their ninja bandanas and presume the task of carrying the treasure back home.


2.Notice a taxi driver: I use Uber almost on a daily basis. I live in Bangalore and it is definitely not easy being a driver around here. The poor guy spends 40 minutes or so on one trip only to be stuck in traffic, again. All uber driver’s addresses read, “Some traffic jam in Bangalore City” because they are never getting out.  Food delivery services have agreed to deliver food to them on roads, it’s all cool. Despite the madness around them, they hustle and figure mechanisms to cope with it. Some will resort to long phone calls, some will abuse every person alive on the road and some will listen to the radio and try to chat with you, share what they are going through.  They exude patience, period.


3.Try to get rid of a cockroach: I am one of those people who can get creeped out by insects really easily. So obviously, I am an ardent follower of Mortein and Hit, all of the ineffective products I have spent so much on during my lifetime (actually my parents have spent the money, whatever.) A cockroach will give you a pretty good fight before you can manage to kill him/her or get rid of it. It will run, it will dodge you, point at you, laugh and carry on hiding in the most inaccessible places. Cockroach world’s google maps really knows what to tell them, doesn’t it? So yes, cockroaches don’t give up very easily, they will put up a great fight before running to the drain, booing you and disappearing into the darkness of the pipeline world. Cartel de pipeline?


4.Manual rickshaw pullers: Now as weird as this practice is, Delhi is filled with manual rickshaw pullers. Weird because one of my college professors pointed out the fact that manual rickshaw pulling is ridiculous since it involves one human pulling the other. I still didn’t stop using rickshaws though. (Not very confident about this train of thought.)

During my time at college I have taken innumerable rides on it, commuting to and fro and watching people bargain for 10 rupees. I don’t bargain with these guys unless they are asking for a ridiculous amount of money. Better to give them the 10 rupees than to lose it in the vastness of your over-sized bag or spend it on the very hygienic canteen food.

Delhi heat is unmerciful, and while you are sitting on the rickshaw, waiting to get off, cribbing about the heat, just take a moment and observe how the man’s face is sweating, what the 40-degree heat must be doing to him, but he goes on. Also, most of them are under-nourished and very lean, which makes you wonder how they have the physical strength to go on. They don’t have an option, so they do it anyway. Making it through the day, one pathetic ride after the other.


5.Your phone when it reaches one percent of its battery: We all know this. The battery can dip from 100-50 in a jiffy, but the phone works hard, super hard when it reaches 1 percent. Building up the suspense inside you as to when the screen will turn black. It will give you it’s all, with low power mode, then give you another alert and warning, “I am about to die, please give me electricity with a side of current. Super hungry.” Alas, when it gives up, you will. But don’t forget the important lesson here. You’ve got to keep going even if you think you’re at your last bar. (Not the alcohol serving type or a chocolate bar,though, the metaphorical kind.)


6. That baby: Oh yes, be that baby that will find you in the movie theater, the airplane, airport, restaurant and not stop crying. Babies have a cartel of their own which we don’t know about, these cartels plan which public places they need to attack according to the level of inconvenience caused to others. They feed on irritation and frustration. Classic example of looks being deceptive. Be like a baby, be stubborn and unapologetic.

I hope reading these points will give you the strength to go ahead and screw over again. Finding inspiration and motivation can be a lot like Marlin and Dory’s search for Nemo. So, Keep drowning.