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One day, the grumpy old man next door (whom, after the episode here, I started calling 'uncle'), berated me for washing my own car. He said I was spoiling my driver. Though I pointed out that it was a Sunday and I and my family was going out, he didn't seem to budge from his view that I was setting a bad example for the other drivers.
"I am sorry, but can I wash my bike then?" I was about to ask his permission when he saw the golden beer can from which I was swigging and huffed away shaking his head. I was a bad example to everybody in the apartment complex, it seemed. This happened a few months ago.
Two weeks back, I bumped into the same grumpy again and as luck would have it, I was washing my car. As I braced myself for the angry missive, fortifying myself with a swig from the golden can, he did the unthinkable: He smiled at me.
"Haven't seen you lately," he said, stopping to admire the shiny black gleaming through the trickling droplets.
"Er... I was travelling." I barely managed to conceal my astonishment. "How are you...uncle?"
"I am good," he said, plucking out an errant thread from the wash cloth off my hood. "Why don't you drop by my place sometime?"
As he walked away, he looked at the golden can in my hand and said, "It is going warm." I leaned over the hood of my car to stop myself from fainting. That evening I told my wife what happened.
"I think he wants to play carom with me," I said.
"But you are terrible at carom," she reminded.
"How about chess, then?" I had to find something.
"Whatever, don't forget to get your apple," she said, latching on.
Parking is an urban nightmare. In apartment societies, it is not just enough that you shell a crore or more rupees for your flat but you have to also buy space by paying extra to park your car. It is like somebody who has the kind of money to buy an apartment is expected to use public transport. You can almost imagine the transaction with the realtor.
Realtor: "The apartment is 1.25 crore rupees, has a separate pooja room."
Buyer: "Great, I will take it. What about parking?"
Realtor: "Oh, you have a car?"
The 'covered' parking is a luxury most inhabitants reserve for their more expensive set of wheels. The second less costly vehicle, if they have one, is left out in the open. Our neighbour, a well-to-do businessman from Bihar, had a Toyota Corolla which he parked in his covered parking slot. So when he bought an equally expensive car, I could not help but wonder where he would park it: Would he make space for his spanking new vehicle by putting out the old Corolla? I brought it up with him the other day.
"The car I bought for my daughter's wedding," he told me. "It's a gift."
"Your son-in-law is sure a lucky guy," I was genuinely touched with envy.
"I carefully selected the car myself after watching all the car advertisements which guys like you make," he sounded as if I made the ad which I hadn't.
"I didn't make the ad, but it sure is a nice car," I assured him.
"It better be as this was the only car advertisement with a shaadi in it - badiya setting, badiya!" He said with a flourish, tapping my shoulder like I made the ad.
Pinky (name definitely changed) is the maid of another neighbour whom, me and my wife were hugely surprised to discover, was a maid. She was very pally with the kids, went out for evening walks with the lady of the house, shouted out the purchase list to the guy...and above all was very pretty. So when we were looking for a maid, my wife had only one brief: Somebody who didn't look like Pinky.
One day I saw Pinky hanging out clothes in a sari and I stopped dead on my track. It was straight out of a popular deodorant ad. While all I could do was hide and peep, our dude-looking plumber ventured forth boldly. He appeared out of nowhere and began chatting up Pinky. He personally gave her the information that the piped water would be salty till noon as the RO was being cleaned - something which had been up on the bulletin board the past two days. But Pinky appeared astonished to hear the news and gave him a look of absolute gratitude.
Many months later, Pinky was relieved of her services as a pack of condoms was found under the master bed.
There are some enthusiastic tykes who practice taekwondo in the park next door. I am waiting for the day they will change their ornamental, cumbersome, flappy kimonos to vests.
Jose is a communication consultant based in New Delhi. He is an avid traveller, adventurer and travel writer. Wanderink.com is his personal blog.