Talking of personality types,i am the guy who far too often brings out the extremes in people i come across...a fact that has been reinforced over many years of finding strangers who got acquainted,tolerated, befriended, loved, hated, bitched, bled, protected, tried to beat the living daylights out of, took care of, lent money to (and never asked for it back), took money from (and never bothered to return it) , shared a beer with, threw a brick at, stalked, stopped talking to, forgot and .....in the case of a truly demented and brave woman........married....... me.
All said and done I have been blessed to be around wonderful people who let me into their lives and are happy to be a part of mine...until now! To cut a long story short, currently my life as i would want to live it, is in a different city and i am living the life i don't want to, in Calcutta. Forced bachelorhood, too many airline meals and take out dinners and weekend sachets of happiness with unimportant times in between.
Part of this disaster involved taking up another place in Calcutta where i could sleep, dump my stuff and spend the rest of the unimportant times. Now this place is a work of art of middle class kolkata bong attitudes. 20 flats of government defined Middle Income Group dimensions, rules, sub rules, corollaries and notices on everything from going to the terrace, to usage of the 5'X5' plot of brown earth the residents delusionally refer to as "the lawn", locking and unlocking of entrances, women visitors, male visitors, loudness or the lack of it of music being played if any, puja donations, resident committee meetings (there are two every week!), AC fittings, blah blah blah.
The silver lining was that the place was cheap and being the fifth floor of a elevator-less building i was the only resident in the whole floor of four flats. Perfect for me being out of everybody's way and hopefully vice versa.And the compulsory exercise wouldn't hurt!Well, the best laid plans of mice and men go awry and i am nothing special. After a few days of smiles on the staircase, the vice president of the committee (they have 12 office holders and 8 members for a population of 17 families..go figure) comes up for a introduction. I might have forgotten some of it due to shock but here's the condensed review.
Friendly Neighbour: Hello, you are new here. You did not bother to introduce yourself so i thought i should take the inititiave and make you familiar with us.I am the VP of RCOM (that's Resident's Committee by the way). By the way you owe Rs. 150 for maintenance.
Me: Hi. Nice to meet you. Please come in. Er..I did pay it to the landlord with the deposit.
FN: NO, No, no....thats his contribution. You have to pay another 150 for tenancy.
Me. Oh! so i pay twice for the same flat?
FN: Yes, the rules are there on the notice board for your benefit. We usually discuss these important matters during introduction but you never came.
Me: That's alright. Its not a bother. Would you like something to drink?
FN: NO, No, no...i have seen you bringing beer. You should be more reserved when you bring such items to the building.
Me: I meant water or Juice.
FN: Oh! I will have Frooti.
Me: Um...sorry i don't have that, but i do have mango juice from Real.
FN: NO, No, no.....water is fine.
A minute of uncomfortable silence later (maybe we were paying our respect to the demise of civility)...
FN: I heard you are travelling a lot. Where do you work. You are married, no? where is your wife. Why don't you have a sofa in the living room?
Bewildered Me: Um..i am married. Wife's in Bangalore, I travel on work and to catch up with her. I work for XYZ...And i like these bean bags better.
FN; Oh...US Company? No security. How much do you earn? Does you wife work? How much does she earn? You young people are always running after money. How will you have children if you are apart all the time. And when you do have children they will be spoilt because of the lack of parental attention. By the way, when do you plan to have children. Have two of them . It's better for their personalities.
Flabbergasted Me: What??? I am not really inclined to answer these questions. Is there anything i can do for you?
FN: NO, No, no....i was just giving you some advice. Hope to see you in the meetings.And please bring in the money then.
Impatient Me: Can i give it to you now. After all, you are the VP of RCOM. I really don't think i can make it to the meetings, I am usually late for work and most weekends i am travelling.
FN: This is a big departure from the RCOM rules but i will manage. Remember, next time when i ask for something, you will have to accept responsibility. And make sure you read the rules on the notice board or you might face problems in the future.
'Trying to get out of this nightmare' Me: Ok. Thanks. Bye.
A few months of careful planning by me made sure i didn't have any more interactions till it all came crashing down this weekend. Enjoy my misery:
FRIDAY: After a visit from my newly married childhood friend and his wife over the week gone by during which we hung out in eataries and pubs, watched a couple of movies in multipexes and spent a few hours at my flat, i was feeling tired and a little lonely and dealt with it by flirting with copius amounts of red wine, salami and pink floyd...and dozing off at four in the morning...or was it three?
SATURDAY: Woke up at an obscene hour,cancelled a couple of plans with friends. Cleaned the mess from last night. Vegetated..Spent two and half hours and lost half of my mind to get to a friend's party.Had a great time there culminating into a late night session of low stakes teen patti. Got out after midnight after losing a princely sum of 400 rupees, reached home and realised i had lost my keys to the entrance gate. FAAAAACCK!! But then, there's a glimmer of hope. Friendly Neighbour's lights are on. YAY!! And since i was sober, I strutted up, put my hands through the grill and rang his doorbell.
FN (to himself): Who is it at this godforsaken hour. Some people have the nerve &$@##!&....
FN (to me): OH!! its you....(suddenly stops recognising me)...who are you??
'With a sinking feeling' Me: Uncle its me..flat no. 18. I am the guy who didn't pay the maintenance and didn't have Frooti. The guy you did a big favour for. Could you do me another favour and please open the gate. I lost my key. Am very sorry to bother you so late. I saw the light was on and figured you would be awake so took a chance.
Indignant FN: I dont have the keys to the gate either. I think i lost it this morning and cant find it ever since. and what do you mean you took a chance. It's past midnight. The lights are on because my son has his class VII exams in 63 days and we are all awake studying. You would not understand such discipline. Partying out and drinking till midnight. Your generation is ruining the bengali culture.
Mrs. FN (from inside the house): You are always late. Last week you came around 11pm three times and you brought a girl with you once. This is a building of "bhadrolok". we will not tolerate such practices.
Pissed off Me: Didn't you notice her frigging husband with me? And its none of your business. Anyway, please open the gate. If you don't have the key to the entrance, let me pass through your home. (INFO: their flat is on the ground floor and opens to the "lawn " on one side and the rear door open inside to the building)
FN and Mrs. FN in chorus : WHAT?? NO NO NO No No no no..we don't let strangers inside. Come back tomorrow morning The secretary of RCOM will open the gate in the morning as usual.
Am so pissed at myself for being so careless and at the FN 'cause he's awake AND GOT the F***ING KEYS and still wont open the door because of some twisted delusional sense of self importance and medieval propriety.Calm myself and go out in search of a "cheap" hotel. End up at "The Park".Get informed that "only suites are available sir" 'cause a marriage party is coming the next morning at seven and they booked all rooms. Yeah, Right. Hand my card to the bloodsucker and spend the month's rent for 6 hours of sleep and a complimentary breakfast ...CRASH into bed...
SUNDAY: Wake up still pissed. Make plans to cause major bodily harm to FN. Get bored of it in 10 mins. Laugh at the incredible stupidity of it all. Check out. Come back to the temple of propriety.
Write a blog entry ....for closure.