Love Thy (English) Neighbor!


It was the usual, cold evening in London in the first week of May when the protagonist of the story – Maks and his friends were swinging to some Tamil gaana songs in an up-market suburban flat in the outskirts of London. Now the British are generally very sweet people. They will go from 60 to 0 in their shiny new cars in under 6 seconds flat, just to let you cross the road even before you think about doing so (Now wouldn’t we do just the opposite here). Like I said – sweet. But, beware. Any disturbance to their daily schedule could get them as angry as… well… as not having their cup of tea in the morning. The flavor of which, some of us savored in that cold, May evening in London.

Our abode was a 2 bed room flat on the first floor, sandwiched between a rich (his large screen plasma TV and the brand new PlayStation3 confirmed this adjective for me), bachelor, Pakistani student (who had an eccentric taste for loud, heavy metal music) in the ground floor, and a middle-aged British couple in the second floor. The apartment had wooden floors, which meant that you could wake up the entire building if someone sneezed a bit loud in the night. But, we realized all this late, as we were used to our sound proof, concrete flats, back in Chennai.

‘Loud’ is a word which is, perhaps, as subjective as the word ‘music’. And that was precisely what was playing that night. We had a big amplifier connected to a couple of huge speakers in our flat which, had they been in India, would have found excellent use in any of the marriage ceremonies back in Chennai. The volume was miniscule by our standards, as we were grooving to some popular Tamil hits, when we heard a knock at our door. Initially it was drowned in the percussion coming out of speakers, lost in those thumping beats of A.R.Rehman. But then, when we realized that the vibration on the walls was not because of the music, but because somebody was trying to break the door, we muted the volume wondering who the visitor was.

Maks went on to answer the door, as we were getting our ears adjusted to that unusual noiselessness. In that silence we could hear a sleepy, unhappy, angry British voice, in a tone that sounded similar to an employee complaining after his appraisals. He sounded distraught and fed-up, and we already knew why. Then we heard our John Doe saying in the politest way possible – “Mates, what’s happening here? Do you know what the bloody time is now?”

There was a sudden rush of footsteps and a huge commotion that followed, before Maks rushed inside the room like a raging bull. He was searching the room like a man searching for a weapon to defend himself from a gang of thugs. We were under the impression that Maks was getting beaten and rushed to the door to save him.

We found a middle-aged man, in his thirties, standing at our door in his night-pants. I recognized him to be our neighbor from the second floor, as I had caught him looking at me several times, as if I was from another planet, whenever I passed by him in the stairs. His unkempt hair and reddish eyes clearly showed that he was trying to get some sleep with little success. Seeing so many of us standing there, his anger changed to more of an appeal, as he again said the same thing – “Do you guys know what time it is?”

I was about to say – “We are really sorry Sir. We promise to keep the music down. This will not happen again”, when suddenly, Maks rushed in, pushing us behind, with the enthusiasm of a kid who had just found a bag of chocolates. In his hand was a digital alarm clock that he had found in one of the drawers. Before we could realize what was happening, Maks thrust the digital clock on his face and said, with a tone of achievement and absolute innocence – “Nine Thirty!”…

We tried our best to control our laughter, but couldn’t hold back. We were rolling on the floor with laughter, as the poor guy walked back to his flat with utmost disgust, murmuring that he had to get up at 4 AM the next day, with Maks standing at the door, clock in hand, this time shouting “Nine Thirty-one”… 😀

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P.S: This is one of my very old posts. But I repost it here for my dear friend Mahesh, who’s leaving office next week to start fresh in yet another IT ‘factory’. Remembered this, thanks to his latest goodbye-post. This one almost made a mini celebrity out of him. The major part of it is indeed true, but a couple of lines, may have been manufactured out of pure ‘creative liberties’. 😛 Will miss writing about your adventures Maks. You Rock dude. 😀

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