To Live-In or Leave-Out?

Rushing past the grocery store, I ran in desperation to reach home. If I missed the electrician again, it’ll be one more cosy, and anything but little, night with the mosquitoes.

To Live-In or Leave-Out?

To Live-In or Leave-Out? [Illustration by Shinod AP]

But even in my eagerness to reach home, I couldn’t help notice the frown on the ‘grocer uncle’s’ otherwise cheerful face. He never missed greeting me with a pleasant ‘how do you do’ everyday. Anyway, he is the last thing that should be on my mind now, I told myself.

I reached home to discover that my saviour had, unfortunately, left – leaving me to one more scratchy night. Since I had ample time before my other saviour, my boyfriend Farhan, arrived, I decided to make some pending social calls.

The ladies had all gathered outside in the lawns, enjoying the evening breeze. I reached up and smiled. No one reciprocated. There was pin-drop silence.

“Nice weather, isn’t it Mrs Khanna?” I smiled again. Mrs Khanna was in no mood to reply. She and another Mrs something took leave.

But Mrs Garg didn’t. A more nosy kind of a person, Mrs Garg continued to stand there, staring at me in disgust. Something about her face reminded me of the ‘grocer uncle’.

Feeling a little uncomfortable, I walked past, brushing the feeling aside and headed for home, wondering when Farhan will be back. It was a week since he had gone out on business trip.

As I sat down, made myself a cool drink, checked the mail, which were mostly bills, my friendly neighbour dropped in. Or rather, barged in. “You’re a complete fool,” she said in a shrill voice.

Without giving me a chance to enquire why I was being showered with the pleasantries, she puffed away: “You think you’re the cat’s whiskers, untouched by what the society thinks. Living with him like this! How unsocial! And how do you think you’re going to answer all the questions? And who the hell is Farhan, anyway?”

Realisation dawned on me. So, that is what it was all about – all those looks.

Farhan had shifted in with me about ten days back. But, did that change who I was? A fortnight ago, I was the most loved and cared for person in the building. Suddenly, everything had changed and I had become “unsocial”.

I am happy to be with Farhan – shouldn’t that be my first concern? I reminded myself that we live in a society that does not allow the ‘luxury’ of having a relationship outside the socially accepted format, like a marriage. And I wondered if I even wanted to be a part of such a society, leave alone answer its questions.

Grumbling about how insensitive the world is, I monotonously got down to preparing dinner.

When Farhan arrived, he looked as fresh as ever. “You look like you haven’t been sleeping all these days. Missed me that much, huh,” he asked.

“It isn’t sleep. It’s the ‘great’ society,” I said in an irritated voice. Even his refreshing aura had not been able to get my mind off what had happened in the evening.

“Ah, come on! I knew this was coming. Don’t think too much of it.”

By then I was fuming red: “But things don’t just change! They don’t even know you! How can they dislike you?”

Farhan was calm and very sure of himself: “So let them know me.”

And, that is exactly what I did. I threw a party for my neighbours to get to know him.

During the weekend, I rushed home early – there were thousands of worries… Is the booze enough? What about dessert? Should I use the new mats? Is everything in place? Do we need more dishes…

Then, the door bell rang.
“Hello dear,” said Mrs Khanna.
“Hello Mrs Khanna. Hi Pankaj!”
“Hi Mrs Garg. Hi Deepak.”
One by one, my neighbours poured in.

To say that the rest of the evening was a hit would be an understatement. It was anything but “unsocial”. And, would you believe it, Farhan was the centre of attraction.

All the women would not leave his side. The best shot came from Mrs Garg: “Get married soon. The two of you make a lovely couple.”

“Well! So much for society,” I sighed.

“All they wanted was that you include them in your life. Give it time, the society is not that ‘unsocial’, you know!” Farhan beamed.

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