Lending A Helping Hand
I was in deep meditation early in the morning when there was a loud knock on the door. I knew exactly who the demons were who came to disrupt my tapasya. As I decided that I won’t let them win over me this time and tried to concentrate harder upon my meditation. Demons were more persistent than me. They kept banging. I cursed under my breath and went to open the door with a forced smile. It was my downstairs neighbor’s daughter. “Yes! Dear, what do you want?”,I knew she never came if she didn’t want something. The little girl of fifth standard was smarter beyond her age. She rolled her eyes, smacked her lips and gave the sweetest possible smile. And started, “mom wants you to lend me two eggs, four onions six chllies, three tomatoes and some coriander.” She read all the ingredients needed for egg curry. “Why don’t you wait for half an hour? I would just cook and give you the curry. No need for your mom to cook.” I felt like snapping back. But restrained myself and went inside, put everything in a bag and handed it over to her. Noorjahan, my sweetest neighbor finds nothing which she can’t possibly borrow. I wonder how she gets the idea that such things can be borrowed really. The other day I was just getting out of my car, collecting my things and locking the car door. She came out and smiled. I knew something was coming. “That’s beautiful hand bag. I am going to a marriage tomorrow and I really want something good to go with my new sari. You never go out on Sunday. Right? So you can lend it to me tomorrow of course.” What was I supposed to say? It was so sudden that I couldn’t come up with any possible excuse. I wish I could have at least said that I was going to visit my ailing uncle in hospital, but she knew I had no relatives in town. “Yes, of course, why not. I can lend you my handbag.” For the first time I cursed myself for not having any friends and relatives in this town.
My loving neighbor is also a wonderful beautician, but of course I never used her services. In midsummer, on one very sultry and hot afternoon, I was just marveling at the comfort AC can provide and reading the book, ‘don’t say yes when you want to say no’. Here was this bang again on front door. Oh! How much I dreaded to step even for a few minutes out of AC in the hot exteriors of above 40 degrees. I had no chance. I knew this would be none other than my dear Noorjahan. “Can you please lend me your AC?” Noorjahan asked me with a bowl of wax and other things in her hand. Finally she asked something which I couldn’t possibly lend. And with the new found moral support of the book I was reading, I said, “no, I can’t, its fixed and I can’t remove it.”
“Hahaha! You are so funny. Of course I know you can’t remove the AC. I was just asking you to lend me your AC room for a while. I need to apply wax to my customer and due to this drastic heat; wax is just melting away and not staying on skin.’ Even before I could respond I found a white clay coated face peering at me from behind her. Awww! Have I started having delusions because of high temperature? My thermo sensitive brain shuts down when the temperature crosses 40 degrees. Noorjahan sensed my horror and said, “Oh she is my customer.” She smiled at me with a face coated with thick white paint and it cracked around the corners of her mouth when she smiled. ‘God! What else I am doomed to witness?’, Noorjahan made her customer sit comfortably in my reclining chair and put her things on my night stand. Having no possible rescue from the situation, I decided that I would use the opportunity to learn waxing so that I can try my hand upon my friend Maheshwari who spends thousands every month upon these procedures. I settled down in the corner of my bed and started watching with my eyes wide open. Noorjahan came to me and said, “Can you sit outside for a while?”
“What?” I understood what she said but the shock of being ushered out of your own bedroom was so crude that I couldn’t think of better words to express it. She whispered again. “The lady is very shy. She feels uncomfortable with you around watching her.”
‘Oh really? What about my comfort of being thrown out of my own bedroom in the smoldering heat of 40 degrees?’ I wanted to shout, but gulped my words. I walked out of my bedroom with ‘don’t say yes when you want to say no’ under my arm. Who said people learn from books? I never do. She had said, ‘for a while’ but that for a while took more than 45 minutes and I sweated like a fish in my non Ac living room.
The other day, I was just stepping inside my car with a friend. We were going out for a movie when Noorjahan appeared at the car window. “Can you please lend me…”
“Oh god no, no no please. Don’t ask me to lend my friend. He is the only one I have in the vicinity of 200 kms and I can’t possibly lend him to you, not when I have already booked tickets.”I blurted out.
“Hahaha… come on, you are never short of your jokes, are you? What use can I have of your friend?” my friend stared at me in disbelief. She continued, “Since you are going out for movie and you won’t be home until evening, can I possibly use your home? I have a few extra guests today and they want to relax a bit.” I took out the keys and handed over to her in hurry. “Yes! Take it; use the whole house, whatever you wish. Just spare this friend for me.” I laughed and she joined in with me.
Well, we all might have our own Noorjahan like neighbor who never hesitates to borrow anything they want. While their unending list of things to borrow from us can put us on nerves at whiles, accept it or not, that is just another way to bond with our neighbors, this lending and borrowing creates a certain bond among neighbors’ which breaks the ice. We all live at different places on purpose of job or studies with no immediate family with us to take care of us in emergencies. While we find ourselves competent enough to lead life alone without much help from anyone, there might be situations where you would need someone to come for your help. Noorjahan was the only person whom I called when I was suddenly down with viral fever and couldn’t move myself even an inch. She took care of me for many days, bringing me medicines and food. If I didn’t have rapport with her through her lending process I would have felt very embarrassed to ask for help. While it’s not unusual for people in villages to come to each other’s rescue in hours of need, we don’t find such cooperation in cities and towns. In villages, few things are treated as common property. If you have a ladder or a water drum, it’s the property of whole village. Anyone can use and return it, people are not shy to ask and don’t even mind to lend their things to others also. People don’t have to call event management for functions and marriages; everything would be taken care by neighbors. But in cities, we find ourselves at lose to borrow or to lend. We are very shy even to ask for help in emergencies and obviously we don’t volunteer to do even small things like baby sitting or watering their plants when they are not home. While we can leave it to the conscience of people to judge for themselves before deciding what to ask and what not to, we must definitely come out of our shell and a helping hand to our neighbors. While we don’t need to go out of way and help them at the risk of our comfort, it won’t really hurt to share what we have with our neighbors. It won’t cost much, except for few genuine feelings of companionship and the bliss of doing something for someone. Neighbors are the nearest relatives and friends who don’t think twice to come to your help in emergencies.
Well, beyond everything I still love my neighbor Noorjahhan.
“Love thy neighbor as thee loves yourself.”
If not completely, give it a chance. Love never goes unreturned.
(The writer is a lecturer in Government Junior College for Girls at Kovvurzu in West Godavari district. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org / 8500707056)