He Gave Me Hell, But I Made Sure I Had The Last Laugh

Brinda Brinda in Your Story on 10 August, 2017

“Bhaiya! Dheere se baat kariye na. Mujhe kaam karna hai. Kitni baar bolu?”

Bhaiya was the security guard of our small building. Five families lived in this building. We had moved into the ground floor flat of this building two summers back. It did not take us very long to realize that there was a permanent water problem in that particular building alone. The water consumption far exceeded the water supply almost every day.

It did not rain that year. So there were water cuts. Our lives went for a merry tizzy. The maids were erratic. We could never exactly predict when we would run out of water on any given day. So when the maids turned up there was no running water. And when we had running water the maids were not around.
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It took me a fortnight to realize what would work best for us. I decided to go ‘maidless’. It was less stressful for me and I could focus on my work which the most important thing for me. And then this building did not have a lift. So the other families would simply call out to him from their respective floors. “Bhaiya – aadha kilo tamatar lana. Bhaiya – rickshaw lana.” I could see Bhaiya going up and down and back and forth to buy the kanda and batata and half a kg of dahi and ek choti dudhi several times in a day, every day!

Well, we did not belong to the kanda-batata-dahi-dudhi category. I preferred to do my own shopping from the nearby market. And my husband and son just walked up to the street corner to hire a rickshaw to the station every day. We neither have a maid nor did we want any other help from Bhaiya. So we didn't really have to engage with him in any manner. But somehow he made it his business to irritate me.

Why he harassed me so much – I really never could understand. The minute my husband and son left for work, he would catch me by the kitchen window.
Bhabhi, do you still have running water?” “Bhabhi, do you know what happened yesterday?” “Bhabhi, I lost my temper with the third-floor people yesterday.” “Bhabhi, their maid did not turn up today.” “Bhabhi this and bhabhi that.”

Jesus! Dear dear dear God! I clenched my teeth for the 100th time (it is a wonder that my teeth are still intact) and told him firmly just once. “Bhaiya. I don’t want you peeping through all or any of my windows and talking to me. Neither am I interested in any of your talk. Ring my door bell and tell me when you know we will run out of water. Otherwise, I don’t want to be disturbed!”

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I thought this would solve the matter. But this man, this clever Bhaiya – simply started talking loudly with his friend who turned up regularly at around 11 am every day. He would talk loudly with all the maids and indirectly give me a news bulletin every single day. He was really getting on my nerves – every bloody single nerve of mine. And it was on one such day that I finally lost my fuse and told him to talk softly.

The worst was yet to come. We realized that the network (phone) did not work in our area. This meant I had to go to our balcony to check my email, or take or make calls. And this Bhaiya would sit below my balcony to listen to any and every conversation that I had on the phone. I started speaking in English when he was around. He vamoosed.

He listened to music on his phone at full volume. I just went out to the balcony and asked him to switch off the phone. He was playing ‘tit for tat’ with me!

“You entertain him. It’s your fault. Why are you so polite with him? Just yell at him,” my spouse said angrily when I told him about his antics.

“I do that but he just finds other ways of harassing me.” I replied tiredly.

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We all just decided to ignore him. I turned a blind eye whenever I saw him and shut all the windows of our house as soon as I finished my work. I replied only when it was absolutely necessary, otherwise just marched in and out of the building. He got the message and life finally became a little peaceful for all of us.

The summer had peaked by then. The water supply was dwindling. Tankers were ordered over the phone but now they became increasingly unreliable. Often they had to be booked days in advance.

Tempers frayed and verbal fights took place amongst the people living on other floors. They relied on running water and maids for a smooth sailing day. I realized why Bhaiya’s gimmicks were tolerated that day. He was in his truest element during this crisis. He somehow managed to get another tanker when the regular tanker fellow failed to turn up. He ensured a steady flow of water in the building.

The night watchman was a senior person, so Bhaiya often had to stay overnight when the tanker came. He created a ‘light, sound and drama effect’ unfailingly before a tanker came, when it came, and after it went. Often we could not sleep soundly due to all the noise – but we had water. That was the most important thing for all of us.
Bhaiya – darvaze pe aayenge?” I said.
He looked up in surprise. But he came.
I gave him a plate. “Khana hai. Kha lena.

And every time he did double duty for a tanker I would share the food that I cooked with him. My husband scowled. He didn’t like what I was doing. But it did not stop me from doing what I wanted to.

I hated the man but respected his work. Maybe this gesture touched Bhaiya in some manner. I do not know. But I do know that we had made our peace with each other. He did not harass me anymore. We continued with our silent treatment but it was a kind of peaceful silence.

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Two things happened on 8th November 2016. 500 and 1000 rupee Indian currency notes were demonetized and all of us got our eviction notice. Same day, same time.

We were all zapped with shock. For almost 2 months, Bhaiya was busy exchanging notes for a merry fee from the entire colony. We were all given 6 months notice to vacate our houses. Bhaiya too came to know about it. He bided his time till he found a job for himself. And then one fine day, suddenly he announced that he had quit and left within half an hour.

We all were leaving the building anyway. So we just shrugged our shoulders and left it at that. A fortnight later, people from neighbouring houses started asking us about his whereabouts – again because we lived on the ground floor.

When we told them that he had quit his job, they were shocked. He had siphoned off as much money as he could from as many houses as he could during the demonetization phase. And then he had then coolly walked off without telling anyone.

I burst out laughing. Finally, could do so. Laugh and smile and even dance if I wanted to. Goodness gracious, I could even read the newspaper peacefully in our balcony without being disturbed. Bhaiya was a cheat and a gossip monger. Bhaiya was a really foxy crafty wily man. Bhaiya had tested my patience for almost 2 years. But finally, I could live peacefully without his constant irritating presence around me.

Editor's Note:

Share this story because, LOL why not Bhaiya