When you can’t beat ‘em….

I tiptoed round the house, collecting the things I needed to go out – shopping bag, the bills, cheque book, clothes for dry cleaning, the purse… and then I dropped the keys. I froze. I cursed myself for not having switched on the TV for some extra noise, something that could have masked that sound….

‘Ma, what are you doing? Some clandestine operation?’ asked the younger one.

‘Sh..hhhh,’ I shushed him. I was running late and couldn’t afford to be accosted by the old lady across the landing as I was leaving. That meant that I would lose at least half an hour of listening to her litany of illness, aches and pains and those of her sundry relatives and friends.

‘Just feel this spot,’ she would say, thrusting her arm into my face. ‘Look, how tender it is. It is so painful, I can feel the pain shoot through to my brain,’ she would explain graphically.

Or, ‘These days, when I walk, my foot just buckles under me,’ she would say and try to demonstrate it, to my horror. What if she actually fell?

Or again, ‘My niece called me from Chennai last night. It seems she has had an accident…’ and go on to describe the make of the car that had hit her, and how she had to undergo all the X-rays, scans, the plaster cast on her leg…

I mean talking once in a way about your illness is fine, but making it the sole conversation topic is something else altogether. She took the credit for coming up with a new illness or ache every single day of the week, month and year. Someone could have suggested her name for the Guinness book, for heaven’s sakes! I was the patsy, since I lived bang opposite her flat.

‘Listening to her, I start feeling some ache or pain in my own body,’ I told my family. I think I am going to become a hypochondriac like her, one of these days.’

They clucked their sympathy but offered no help.

It never failed to amaze me how she managed to come out at the precise moment I opened my door. Was she standing there all the time with her eyes glued to the peephole? No matter how quiet I was, she invariably caught me. At first, I indulged her; after all, she was an old woman and her husband had his own circle of friends and his TV. With her children away in distant cities, I fancied myself filling in for them. But then there was a limit. Soon, I began inventing stories, of how I was rushed for an appointment with the editor of some newspaper or magazine. The way I went, it would appear that I was the busiest freelancer in town. Also, I had to hide my bags and other shopping paraphernalia from her. It began telling on my nerves.

Then one day, my nerves finally gave way. I clutched at my head and sat down, close to tears. ‘Why me?’ I wailed.

That galvanised them. I must admit that the L&M and the Brats can be of great help, when they put their minds to it. A family council sat to decide on a course of action. ‘Tell her that you are busy and have no time to listen,’ said my practical older boy. ‘It is kinder to cut her off than avoid her.’

‘He is right, you know,’ agreed the L&M.

‘But I can’t do it. It would be rude,’ I protested.

‘Wait’, said the younger one. ‘I have an idea, one which will serve two purposes. Find out what her interests are and then divert the conversation in that direction,’ he suggested.

That sounded like a good and positive idea and the next time I was stopped by her on the stairs, I casually asked her about her interests in life and came to know that she loved classical music. That gave me an idea. There was a cultural society nearby that held regular music concerts.

The next time I went to the market, I bought a couple of cassettes of classical music and gave them to her. She was thrilled. When I helped her get the membership of the cultural society, her joy knew no bounds. I praised the younger brat lavishly for his insight into human psychology.

She was transformed; she dressed up and went off to meet her new friends and talked of the concerts she attended. She talked more about the saris people wore, the jewellery the singer wore, the snacks that the canteen served than about the concert itself. Still it was better than listening to her descriptions of her diseases, both imagined and real.

I stopped pussyfooting around the house when I was preparing to go out. I actually hummed and sang every time I left home.

But, I must have spoken too soon. Or the Gods must have thought that my days of punishment were not yet over. So one day, when I was noisily locking my door, out popped the lady. Still unaware that my days of joy were about to end, I greeted her chirpily.

‘Oh, it is so good to have caught you. The concert I attended last night was wonderful. That alap  in Malkauns reminded me of the time this great singer had come to our hometown. I was about 12 at that time. I remember it exactly because I was down with mumps. You know, my neck had swollen to the size of a watermelon…..’ After about 15 minutes, she finally released me – reeling.

This became the norm thereafter. It was about a performance ‘the day I had this migraine,’ or ‘the day uncle had a bad stomach ache.’ And then, “she was singing so beautifully, when this stinging pain shot up my leg….’

When I told my family about this turn of events, they all laughed. And then looking at my stricken face, relented.

‘Have you heard of removing a thorn with a thorn, and treating poison with poison?’ asked the younger brat with a wise look.

‘But I can’t poison her, for heaven’s sakes!’ I said miserably.

“Oh ma, come on…said the brat and continued: ‘It is like this: when you can’t beat ‘em, you join ‘em,’ he said and outlined a plan for me.

So after dinner we began having this mini briefing session wherein I was filled in on sundry illnesses and gory disorders by my loving family, especially the Brats. The next day, before the old lady could get a word in edgeways I would begin, ‘Oh aunty, you know when I woke up this morning, I had this horrible constriction in my mandible and I thought I was going to faint…’ You see, the brats not only researched the diseases and disorders but also found the medical terms for body parts!

I couldn’t stop thanking the brat for his wonderful idea, because she hastily closed her door when she heard my front door open — even if she was outside. I happily hummed when I locked my door, for I hadn’t I beaten her at her own game?

51 comments

  1. Cool! smart move over there. Hurray, you finally got your freedom.

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    1. I did, didn’t I? 😀

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  2. […] Escape from neighbours like this one. […]

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  3. Now you don’t have to find excuses for new as the last trick worked, loved it.

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    1. Yes, it did, thank god for that!

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  4. ideas, galore. well implemented.

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  5. Dog with Blog · · Reply

    Brings a smile to my face on this otherwise dull cloudy day. It’s indeed a witty idea 🙂

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    1. Thanks DWB and welcome here. I am glad you got a smile out of the post. Visit again.

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  6. Vineet has a lot of ideas, and awesome ones! Wow, that does work! Should have known before…….will try that now!

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    1. yeah Addy, it works like clockwork! Do try and let me know.

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  7. Fun read !
    I must admit to having suffered this affliction too ! There’s this old lady staying just a floor below mine – we happen share the same maid, so whenever the maid’s late or fails to show up, this lady calls up to ask and ends up going on and on about her ailments and why she can’t manage when the maid doesn’t show up !! Lucky for me this ain’t an everyday saga like yours zephyr…!;-)

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    1. It is terrible when all we can do is nod our heads or make suitable noises as in your case, isn’t it?

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  8. lol…i think i need thy expert advise in dealing with my neighbour. She must be just around 30+ but her only convo with me is how my house is neat coz i dont have kids and wait till they arrive and blah blah…Sighhh!!!

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    1. Oh, all you need to do is to live like a slob to put her off. it serves two purposes — you can relax without having to kill yourself keeping a clean house and let her know that you don’t need kids to make the house dirty 😛

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      1. Lol…well it would be tough to beat her at that game…but worth a try :D.

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        1. It will work once you figure out what bugs you more — her constant envy for your neat flat or your not having kids. Methinks that she is capital J of your neat flat and wants an alibi for her sloppy one. So play on that sentiment and see her squirm 😀 Aren’t I the diabolical one? 😛

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  9. lol..so mean 😛

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    1. Who, me? 😀

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  10. Wonderful read, the idea of blowing with the wind is very simple and effective but we often forget it 🙂 What an idea madam ji 🙂

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    1. Oh, the credit goes to the brat actually 🙂 You are right. We often forget the easiest of solutions or then they don’t occur to us.

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  11. Great read..
    Laugh and the world laughs with you. Whine and you whine alone!

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    1. How true! But a constant whiner is always given a wide berth. 🙂

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  12. Lol…To be very frank , I too have a couple of people in my family who just talk about their illnesses.Nice remedy, I’ll try this next time.

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    1. Welcome here Surabhi. It is a never failing trick. Do try it and tell me its success rate 😀

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  13. Better insights to handle the world!In my case it happens opposite,i have to try hard to initiate conversation.

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    1. Try the weather and ‘their’ kids. never fails to work. 🙂

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  14. Ha 😆 This happens with our neighbours too and my mom complains the same way of having forced to talked to somebody who tortures her. Atleast your brats are kind enough to suggest you, all that my mom tells me is always by-passed between my ears 😉 Need to learn from them to help moms. Yet another laugh and be merry post of yours. Loved it!

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    1. Moms could do with a lot of moral support from their brats, both male and female 😀 So think up of ways to suggest novel methods to deal with pesky neighbours. 😀

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  15. hahaha…glad to see you back Zephyr aunty with your humor! btw, thanks for promoting my post on IndiVine. I just started using it and I m learning the ropes. Your appreciation means a lot 🙂

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    1. Hey, no need for thanks. I like your writing and so would promote it as a matter of course. I am glad that you have started linking your posts on Indivine.

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  16. hahahahahaha!!!

    Vinni is always smart 😀 😛 that was a great way to deal her.. poor you, mandible pain huh? hahahaha 😀

    P.S : Recovered beautifully.. 🙂

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    1. Recovered a tad late, haven’t you? 😦 But I am glad you have. Yeah, Vinni is smart indeed.

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  17. Tit for tat! A taste of her own medicine must have surely tasted bitter!

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    1. The shoe always pinches hardest when on the other foot, doesn’t it? 😀

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  18. As they say, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth! I kept smiling at the thought of brainstorming sessions in the family boardroom. The crackling humour is not without a moral story though.

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    1. Oh yeah. The younger generation has a solution for everything and most of the times, they work as I can vouch. Glad to note that you found a moral to the tale. Don’t all stories have a moral 🙂

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  19. Entertaining post! Haven’t many of us know people like your neighbour? 😀

    Nice trick to beat her at her own game- I’ll try it the next time I’m pestered by someone like that!

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    1. We all keep meeting such people all the time and yes, this is an unfailing trick to throw them off. 🙂

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  20. achoon… achoon.. achoon…. the non-stop sneezes (just fake them) in case she gets on yr case again 😉

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    1. Thanks for the tip Pallavi 🙂

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  21. My favourite blogger is back!!!

    BTW have you suggested blogging to your neighbour? All the hypochondriacs of the world unite…See I even suggested a title for her!

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    1. I would have suggested blogging, but it is not fair to inflict another novice on the younger one, is it? Your blog title sounds promising for any hypochondriac reading your comment 🙂

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  22. Nice one again.Between I hope she doesn’t read your blogs..:P

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    1. Me too 😀

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  23. Thank God, Not all are lucky like you!

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    1. Why not try the same technique against your tormentor? 😀

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  24. Heehee Vinny is a cleaver brat indeed! 😛 (Vinny, next time you drop in bangalore, you need to treat me for this comment 😉 )

    Moral of the story : Old habits seldom dies but can be killed with an equally improvised counter technique derived from the same habit.

    Made a good read to kick start the day!

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    1. Hey Lakshmi, bribing on my blog! Glad to know the post helped kickstart your day 🙂

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  25. lol!
    good to see you back in your element! your neighbour must have really kept you captive!! 🙂

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    1. Oh yes. And yes, blogging is addictive and I got down to posting the moment I got access to internet 🙂

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