I have always envied my friends living in high-rise apartments, as they always raved about the advantages of staying in a multi-storeyed complex. They appeared to enjoy life to the full, indulging in each and every pasttime, even if it meant spending the greater part of the day away from their homes. The security of the building was taken care of and no strangers dared to enter the premises, as they could not escape the ever-vigilant watchman’s eyes. Neither did the residents have to worry if any of the common services went wrong, as the office-bearers of the association saw to it that they were set right. No hanging around, waiting for the plumber or electrician for a leaky tap or a fuse to be changed. All you had to do was leave the keys with the neighbours who were ever-obliging.
Meanwhile, here was I living in an old, independent house with a large compound to boot and every disadvantage I could think of.
Through the years, we got used to our mangoes, custard apples, drumsticks and pomegranates disappearing in bulk. But we did not expect to be relieved of our pumpset one hot summer day and to be faced with the prospect of an empty overhead tank! Well, that proved the last straw and made us decide to move into a flat nearby, though temporarily, till our new residence came up where our old house stood.
Things looked too good to be true during the first few months of our stay. Our neighbours were non-interfering and minded their own business and we too minded our own.
I was saved the trouble of locking many doors when I went out, as there was just one door (which served as entrance and exit). The place around was spick and span, as it was regularly swept. More than anything else, we had a feeling of security, being a part of the complex and with a watchman firmly positioned at the gate.
Soon, however, we were in for a rude shock. To begin with, we realised leaving the door open even for a moment was risky if none of us happened to be around. Things started disappearing in a jiffy. We found the neighbours were so non-interfering that it bordered on indifference. Even a calamity in the house went unnoticed by them, without as much as a condolence visit being paid!
The less said about the watchmen the better, as I am having a tough time making them understand what I mean. They tend to do exactly the opposite of what I tell them. One of them told the car cleaner the other day that he should stop cleaning our car because we had appointed a driver and he would do the job, when all that I had said to the 60-plus watchman was to “collect my car keys in case the mechanic brought back our car during my absence”!
I really don’t know how to handle these ‘watchmen’ who do everything that you don’t wish them to do. They screen the right persons with a thousand questions bcfore they enter, but allow all and sundry to walk in freely and walk out with whatever they can lay their hands on.
I have just come to learn why many of my friends, who used to drop in earlier whenever they passed by, don’t do so any more. Thcy are informed by the watchmen that “we are not at home.” All along I thought these watchmen were only hard of hearing. Now I’ve started to believe they are hard of seeing as well. They don’t seem to be able to differentiate one resident from the other and are unable to keep track of who enters and who leaves the premises.
What puzzles me is that if this is the case in a complex of just eight flats, what would be the plight of residents in larger complexes? It’s time, I think, the security services stipulated an age limit for employing these watchmen and gave them some training in communication.
Otherwise, we may be forced to put up boards in front of apartment complexes which say, ‘Beware of watchmen’ !
N Meera Raghavendra Rao