We’re like that only

I had to walk past a busy narrow lane to college from the bustop. Invariably I would pass a quarrelling couple and a small crowd around them. Giving them a wide berth I literally used to run to my college, with my heart thudding.

The scene would haunt me for the whole day.

A part of me would feel guilty for running away. Maybe I should have stopped and given a piece of my mind to that man. Or called the police. But when the next time I saw a similar scene, I used to get terrified of the drunken man and my legs would automatically carry me as fast as they could away from the scene.

I used to berate myself for being a coward.

Anyway, this was years and years ago.


We were having dinner the other night. Our relative peace was shattered by some yelling and screaming. I peeped out of the kitchen window.

The backyards of my building and the house behind us share the same wall. The new live-in watchman of that house was standing in his kitchen and screaming his head off at his wife.

I rushed back to the dining room. “Do something!” I told my husband. “What?” He asked in annoyance. “I don’t want to interfere in his family business.”

By now the screaming was louder and it totally unnerved me. I climbed on to my kitchen counter and opened the window wider. My son who was super excited with all this, scrambled to climb up beside me. I could distinctly hear some thuds. He was beating her up! That did it. I wanted to make up for all the time I had run away from similar scenes.

“Helloooo!!!’ I screamed. My voice was not loud enough. Clearing my throat, I tried again. “Who’s making all this noise?? Don’t you have any sense beating up a woman like that?” By now my voice had become a pathetic squeak. My son literally fell off the counter laughing.

Suddenly a strong pair of hand lifted him off the counter. “HEY!!!” roared a booming voice, right next to my ear, almost making me deaf. My husband! He couldn’t bear to watch me squeaking and making a fool of myself, so he had decided to help. My God!!! All these years, I had no clue my husband had swallowed a loud speaker when he was a baby!

His booming voice bounced off the walls around and reverberated everywhere. “Who are all you people? If I hear one more word from you, I swear I’ll call the police!” He thundered.

The startled watchman looked up. “Sorry, sir…” he mumbled and slunk away. I flashed a grateful smile at my husband, though my insides were quaking. Both of us went back to the dining table, a bit shaken by the incident.

My son was huddled in his chair like a mouse. His face was pinched and was trying hard not to cry. “What happened?” I asked him. He looked at my husband. “Appa… ” He  began with a quavering voice. “You scared me when you screamed like that…  don’t ever do that again…”

After a bit of consoling and cajoling, he was his normal self again.

My husband glared at me. ‘All because of you’ He mouthed.

Later, I got a lecture on how I should not go around yelling at people from my window. “Did anyone else bother? Who are they to you? You had to climb on that counter like a monkey and make a fool of yourself!’

I was so mad. “I just can’t watch a man beating up his wife in front of me!”

“Then shut your window. Meet the owner of the house and complain about this. There is absolutely no need for you to deal with a drunken watchman!”

I sulked for a bit and thought that was the end of the story.

A few nights later, I was frantically getting my son to sleep when the same noises came from outside. Since my husband was traveling, I decided to ignore it. Soon my son was fast asleep and I went back to the book I was reading. The noise got too loud for me to concentrate and the language he was using was so terrible. He seems to be getting worse by the minute.

Throwing caution to the wind, I opened my curtains and screamed my squeakiest best. “Can’t you see people are trying to sleep? We’ve already warned you once. Shall I call the cops?” This time the wife looked up. “Please do Madam. I cannot take this torture!” She then turned to her husband and screamed in full volume about how uncouth he was, disturbing the peace in decent people’s neighborhood and so on.

She looked up at my window again and yelled at my direction, “Call the police Madam! I don’t care if they arrest my husband!”

I so didn’t want to get sucked into their brawl. So I went back to bed and switched off the lights, signaling the end of my participation.

The next morning I asked my friend who lives in my building if she gets disturbed by the nightly fighting. She seemed clueless since her flat was on the front side of the building.

She promised to send her driver to warn the offender. If that does not work, she promised to accompany me to meet the owner of that house.

Later my maid told me that she went over with my friend’s driver and issued a stern warning to the watchman. She assured me that he’d behave himself.

Later that evening I got another earful from my husband when he called. “Keep all the doors locked, just in case,” he warned me. “I really wish you had some good sense to keep out of such things…” He added wearily.

The next few days were peaceful… I had almost forgotten the watchman.

It started again last night. His high-pitch voice came floating up the window. Followed by his wife’s loud retorts.

I thought for a minute. Then did the sensible thing. Opened the curtains and shut the window.

But at least I tried this time.



  1. Vidya said,

    January 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    The live-in watchman arrangement is a huge nuisance and the same happens in our apartments. And am the only one around ‘poking my nose’ in their affairs according to hubby dear and the rest of the family!! The other 11 families in the building don’t even stir! How to develop selective deafness?!!

    :( maybe we should console ourselves with the fact that their nocturnal noises keep away the burglars!!!

  2. Shanti said,

    January 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    One time just call the police and then they will come to their senses.
    Just few months back, a couple (The next day we got to know that they were brother and sister. Believe it not, the sister was hitting the brother.) were fighting late in the night and we heard bottle breaking sounds. We were going to call the police and just then we heard a siren sound. Some neighbor had already called the police. They sorted it out and it has been peaceful since then.

    ya? maybe i should! but unlike ur situation, these morons live right outside my bedroom! and now its become an everyday problem. even the day before i had to scream a warning when both of them were playing a catching game around their well!

  3. Ashwin said,

    January 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I had to complain about the noisy construction people behind our house, who start work at 5 AM. After a loud warning, I dialed the police station in front of the construction ppl. Duh! The number no longer existed.

    Then I dialed 100 and the experience from there on, is like talking to airtel customer care.

    Solunga sir, ena problem ( south tamilnadu high school chic handling the call)


    Ok sir. Call paniyadharku nanri

    Then on, there is no follow up, not sure if police came in to warn. I just made a fool of myself exposing my bravery in front of unruly construction mafia. Now wondering if I need to armor my car with some spear proof material.

    sad! but that’s the unfortunate state of affairs in our country… we, the decent minority are caught between unruly people and irresponsible authorities..

  4. Rohini said,

    April 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Had to go through this all the time in Armenian St. did not know u are faced with the same prob here. Learnt all my colorful vocabulary from seeing all these fights. But the cops used to come there promptly to end all these fights. too busy nowadays I guess.

    cops will never come to this area since nobody complains! thankfully they moved out & peace reigns now! 🙂

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