Loving the neighbour
True love, they say, is rare and true friendship rarer. The rarest of all is a ‘true’ neighbour whom one can love as oneself as stipulated by the scriptures. The most pedestrian definition of a neighbour is, one who lives next door. To live amicably with this person requires mutual trust, friendship and above all, willingness to help in need.
The most important requisite is consideration - a do–unto-others–as–you-would–they–unto–you–principle. Those living on the upper floors should avoid dragging furniture and thumping on the floors. It can be quite nerve wrecking to have a neighbour who does all her grinding at 2.30 in the afternoon and all her rearranging of decor half an hour later!
A helpful neighbour can very well be taken for granted. How often I bother mine by leaving my keys with her when I go to work. I’ll never forget Uma who rallied round when husband, children and l fell sick at the same time. She sent food, fetched medicines and even took care of a house guest. Then there was Vimala who turned out to be a ministering angel. Squeamish at the sight of blood, I’d call her every time I had to dress my son’s wound when he had a nasty fall. It’s a good gesture to send across some tea and snacks to a neighbour who has just moved in. This can be more appreciated than a well laid out dinner thrown as a social bait later. One good lesson is neither a borrower nor a lender be. It can be irritating to have a neighbour trooping in for a bowl of sugar or a couple of onions, all the time. If however, one is stuck for a thermometer or a tube of antiseptic cream, scrounging can be excused.
Genuine concern for the neighbour is often replaced by idle curiosity. Being interested in each other’s welfare doesn’t imply keeping a hawk’s eye on every activity. Imagine how irritating it must be to have someone screening all the visitors who drop in and all the letters the mailman brings! One must respect the neighbour’s privacy and mind one’s business till called to do otherwise. The other extreme is total indifference to what’s happening next door. I was ashamed to realise that the family next door had moved out a month after they did. It’s as bad as Mrs.Y who didn’t know I had given birth to my child till he was six months old.
Children are often the bone of contention between neighbours. They should also be taught the norms of behaviour applicable to their adults. Their quarrels should not be made much of. Children fight and forget quickly but when their parents interfere, it blows up into a family feud resulting in permanent estrangement. The next area of conflict is maids. They gossip about their respective employers and some of the employers encourage this. If your maid is in a mood to chatter about the lady next door, ignore her and if you have a grouse against any of the neighbours, never confide in the maid. It sure will be conveyed in a distorted manner.
Yes, it does require a lot of tact and effort to be a good neighbour and it can be very discouraging to be a good neighbour in a bad neighbourhood. One can only do one’s best and move out to a more congenial one.