I love him but I just don’t like the way he gurgles and clears throat every morning. We greet each other when we rush to pick our newspapers; While I give a conceited grin holding an intellectual The Hindu, he mocks me with saucy hot Times supplement. He keeps his car shinier than mine, and would light up his house 15 seconds before me in Diwaali. And both of our wives are locked in everlasting sugar-coated fierce duel. The day one joins Yoga, other joins Zumba, and the fight goes on.
Years back somewhere in 1985, our childhood neighbour got a videocon colour TV, which was talk of mohalla. A month later, a massive deluge happened and our entire city was flooded. Yet, my dad sailing through waist-high water, was lifting a large box on his head, like Vasudev lifting Lord Krishna. It was a new Onida TV which said, “Neighbour’s envy; Owner’s pride.”
Rest of the TV-deprived neighbourhood would gather to watch the ’87 world cup. TV was disproportionate large in our small home; My mother would fry delicious pakodas for kids who parted with us; While, neighbour uncle would slap any guy caught smiling when India lost wicket. India lost the world cup, but we won as better host.
Event led to an unsaid ‘cold war’, a war of superiority, and we took the brunt most. If his kids got more marks, I was screwed and vice versa. But, my dad suddenly become Gandhian and began giving Amir Khanish lectures. He arranged many Vajpayee-Musharraf style meetings but one day the neighbour kid stole all our fresh lemons and the war resumed. Lemons were returned, kid beaten and a wall was erected. The wall on which we urinated for long.
We moved from kid-hood to adulthood, and my father turned into Robinhood helping any needy, but neighbourhood bitterness persisted. Whenever friendship of our generation bloomed, aunty would charge at her son, “If you like them. Go and stay with them.” As if we were Pakistan, and he was Shahrukh khan, huh! Shahrukh khan my foot!! He wasn’t even close to Rajpal Yadav.
Years gone past, we moved to other states, other countries, globalised. The wall stands but lost its sheen with some algae layers at bottom, I believe nobody urinated on it for years. Faded yet a memory stands, when there wasn’t a wall, a TV, and a reason to fight. Our fathers played chess, while we toiled in mud and sand.
Uff! He coughed again. Bloody! Man has TB I think.