Thoughts on moving into a new neighbourhood

The biggest thing that has struck me over the last week is the insularity of apartment life. For someone who has never experienced living outside of an apartment complex (and I’m not talking about the fancy-shmancy self-containedness of todays buildings), my life has done a 180 degree turn.

I feel that apartment living is designed to foster nuclear set ups, where every one keeps to themselves, venturing out of the comfort zone only in times of need. Boundaries are stark and common areas are nobody’s concern, specifically. (Unless you are one of those enthusiastic and concerned citizens who is willing to take an initiative)

While one usually has a few people one can depend on, the general vibe is to-each-his-own. Maybe this is my a narrow view, and I don’t mean to generalise, but this has mostly been my experience. It is also closely tied to the Indian tendency to worry about what’s inside the threshold of your home, and ignore the speck of dirt that lies just outside, that comes out strongly in apartment living. Of all the apartments I have lived in, the last one in Goa was probably the strangest. We lived four floors up, and the building didn’t have a lift. We didn’t have covered parking for our poor little car that has now braved four monsoons out in the open. My next door neighbour hated me without reason. On day 2 or 3, when I rang her doorbell to ask if she could help me find domestic help, she opened the door, just a tiny crack poked her eyes and nose out, gave me a firm ‘no’ even before I could have a conversation and shut the door. That pretty much set the tone for our “relationship” in the months to come. For the 3.5 years that we were there, I never spoke a word to them. If we happened to exit our homes at the same time, they would quickly retreat into their home, slam the door shut and wait for us to leave before they left. But that was not the worst of it.

As a newcomer to the city and the apartment complex, I wasn’t aware of the garbage disposal systems. With nobody to tell me to separate my wet and dry waste, and to put the two out on separate days, I had unpacked my kitchen and left a pile of cartons out in the hope that they would be taken away by the garbage collectors. The trash disappeared from my doorstep, only to reappear strewn all over VCs bike a few days later. After a few hours of elimination we deduced that it was the next door neighbour, when we returned home to a post it stuck on our door. It had the details of garbage collection and a sarcastic “Let’s keep our building clean.”

I found it odd that the woman preferred to leave me a stern note, than knock on my door and have a civil conversation about it. I found it odder still that someone who had filthy dustbins that looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in years (with layers of garbage crud lining the insides of it, and no garbage bags to speak of) and had taken the trouble of littering the parking area and a vehicle of a fellow resident, had the audacity to talk to me about keeping my building clean.

I wanted to confront her, but given her behaviour of never wanting to look me in the face, I decided to let it go and not give her reason to pick on us ever again. A part of me hated the apartment complex we lived in, for this disastrous welcome that we had. It turned me off from speaking to anybody else, and I have gotten through the last 3.5 years without knowing any of my neighbours. And yet that home gave us some of the fondest memories. I think the open, green view, the two airy balconies and the relative peace and quiet helped us tide over most other things. Until the construction site came along and made moving inevitable.

I came here expecting nothing. I came here wanting to lie low and do my thing and not get in anybody’s way, least of all invite the wrath of garbage spewing neighbours. Instead, I was blown out of my mind by the warmth I have received. And over the week, it came in small packages, every now and then, when I needed it the most. Most of all, I have been overwhelmed by the different vibe. Where apartment life was all about staying within the boundaries of your home and shutting doors to keep the outside from getting inside, living in a residential area seems quite the opposite. It seems to be about community and opening your home out rather than keeping it closed in.

Several moments had me stop and soak it in, this feeling of experiencing something new. I didn’t think it would ever be difficult to get used to smiling faces, a wave from the home across the street, an elderly man who shows interest in welcoming you.

The women from around the street are friendly and chatty, and had gathered for a cup of chai one evening. They looked up into my balcony where I was standing, said hello. Completely proactively. Welcomed me to the neighbourhood and asked me to pop by if I ever needed anything. My next-door neighbour hooked me up with the doodh-wala who now delivers milk to my doorstep, another new development form the last home. She also introduced me tot he fish-wala who brings a van full of fresh fish to our street twice every week. On the other side is a bunch of scientists, who live in their official quarters. In the evenings they come out to take a walk. The uncles with their mustaches and salt and pepper hair, and the aunties with their heavy sneakers hidden beneath salwar kameezes. They welcomed us to the neighbourhood too. One even took care to come and inform us that his coconut tree leans into our driveway, and that we must keep an eye out for falling coconuts.

My list of thank-you cakes to be made is slowly growing.

Of course all is not rosy. Just when I was beginning to think its so awesome to live on a street like this, one particular neighbour showed up in my face one morning, angry as a hyena. I apologised for the issue, and quickly jogged my mind to think of a way to solve it permanently. But digging a little deeper, we realised that he has actually festered unhappiness about the very existence of this home and the renovation work that went on for the past 5 months. He’s  just pissed. Period. And rather than take up the many issues he has, with the owner or builder or the forces that be, he’s waited five whole months festering his frustration, waiting to catch just anybody willing to listen, and lash out at every chance he gets. The git doesn’t understand that some of his issues are not even things we can resolve for him.

Is this another Indian thing? To avoid confrontation so much, that you’d much rather throw your hands up in the air and be frustrated till the cows come home, than get up and do something to sort out your issues? What lies just outside ones home is never ones business, is it?

Or is he just an apartment dweller stuck in an otherwise very homely neighbourhood?

Either way, no thank-you cake for him.

33 thoughts on “Thoughts on moving into a new neighbourhood

  1. Pingback: Can I have some good old plain and simple again? | hAAthi

  2. arundati

    what a nice welcome. the crazies are just everywhere…touchwood and goodluck! (are those both two two words? will the grammar nazis come get me?)


        1. Oh does it seem that way?! Its actually just the opposite. Iv lived in two homes between the ages of 0-24. And the. I got married so moved to hugsbands. But that doesnt count. First real “move” was movig to goa. But that doesnt count either. Because we had literally NO stuff. Came with shoes and clothes in boxes and suitcases and set up from scratch. This is actually the very first tome we have moved and set shop all on our own. Which is probably why it was so taxing and tedious.


  3. I’ve had the opposite experience, I grew up in an apartment building and it was quite a close-knit community. During my Master’s I moved cities and we lived in houses in these ‘colonies’ and I found people just kept to themselves.

    The crazies of course are everywhere. The neighbour in your first building and the angry guy in your current neighbourhood are similar.


    1. Yeah I think the crazies are just a certain kind of human being that are scattered everywhere.

      I think the apt and neighbourhood vibe also has a lot to do with the kind of people/street it is. In the last apartment I lived it was hard for me to imagine gelling with most of the people who lives there. Even just by lookig at their homes an lives from a far. Here, just from some small interactions and seeing peoples gardens and homes I can tell they all have much more in common than i probably ever had with the apt folks I lived with. Its easier to vibe with likeminded peeps no?


  4. That previous neighbour of yours sounds so vicious. I can imagine how much it puts one off. Though we learn to live with it, it never really escapes our attention that someone who we bump into regularly hates us for no particular reason, does it? The negative vibe is too obvious to ignore


  5. Gosh! This so rude on the part of neighbors who refuse to discuss matters in the most civil ways. Such beings shouldn’t stop you from enjoying life in beautiful Goa.
    Cheers N stay the way u are:)


  6. Those neighbors are everywhere no matter where you live. I can’t buy a friend in mine! So, so very sad. I had great hopes things would be different with this move. I retreat farther into wanting more land and be away from people and closer to the animals and land. But I am reminded … there’s a song, “Keep your head up” By Andy Grammer. I keep smiling to all and wave without expecting one back. You can be my neighbor anytime and with your cakes I shall make tea! Peace to you and good luck in your new home. Koko


    1. “I retreat farther into wanting more land and be away from people and closer to the animals and land.” — I could ditto that a hundred times over! I’m already at what is considered almost the outskirts of my little town, I retreat anymore, and I’ll have to move outside completely!


      1. Perhaps we can retreat into the computer from time to time and be neighbors with like minded :D And maybe it’s those types of people that make us appreciate the really good ones.


        1. That sounds like a plan! Ive already written a post some time ago, about how I tend to find mroe like minded people on the internet and thru this blog, than in real life.


  7. I agree with what you say about apartment living, partially though. We had a similar experience in our apartment complex in California, where the Indian girl next door slammed her face on me when I went to ask about the cable connection.

    Here though, we have some good and helpful neighbours. I think you should simply ignore them. Happy to know that the rest of the folks seem warm and caring.


  8. Congratulations on the move and hope this place wipes out all the 3.5 years of bad neighbourly vibe. Residential areas have a warmth, but apartment complexes seem to be more safe to me.. maybe Goa is different.Been living in a residential house on a nice quiet lane… but somehow I prefer the appt life… Maybe I am just an introvert.


    1. Oh I think apartments are definitely more secure. Like I keep telling the husband even now, I feel so vulnerable and like theres nothing between me and the insides of my home. Everything is just one doorway apart here!

      I am an introvert, and having never lived in a “house” before, I couldnt think of not living in an apartment either. Probably why this experience has been such a pleasant surprise for me.


  9. Meera Parameswaran

    I guess there is always some of those in all the neighborhoods, mine stays right opposite to my door, so don’t mind him. Enjoy baking, waiting to have a peek into your new kitchen most of all! :)


  10. yay was going to whine about silence again.
    i’ve been lucky with neighbours. touch wood heh. here in delhi i’ve lived in DDAs and had delightful elderly couple downstairs and crazy middleaged lady across the hall. but in current house the day we moved everyone in the building came to offer food, water and help. they never object to our screaming parties or the sheets that inevitably end up in their balcony. they even smile as we pass on the stiars and the aunty across is just a doll. touch all the wood in the world =)


    1. I also grabbed the nearest table. Just in case. Because this sounds like a lot of good fortune :) iv always had the one good neighbour but usually outnumbered by stupid nasty annoying ones. The last one really just took the cake!


  11. May your home and hearth be warm with love and freshly-baked cake. The latter, of the thank-you kind and lookie-my-business-is-soaring-and-am-lovin’-it kind. (And of course, of all other kinds that you’d like.)

    Congrats! On the move, and for the business.


  12. you just got lucky in finding such a warm welcoming neighborhood. Having experienced both of them I would say living in a residential area is always better in a relatively smaller town. But in the big cities, though I totally agree with your description of the apartment life, just for the safety purpose and sheet ease of living aka facilities it takes one extra point from me. Also considering the availability factor.

    Btw I guess home setting is done and when you are done with all the Thank you cakes, your regular blogging would resume.


    1. Oh definitely the availability matters. I think we lucked out just a little bit. The house has a few negatives, but theyre too small for me to dwell on right now. The moving and settling is mostly done. The big things are out of the way and what remains are a few small to dos which can happen progressively.. Today I plan to bake and hopefully blog a recipe too!
      Stay tuned!


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