“You know, our new neighbour, Mrs. Tiwari…..”
Sunil Sharma was setting the dishes for dinner when his wife Nidhi started talking while she kept the food on the table.
“What about her?” Sunil asked casually.
“She’s a very careless mother.”
There she goes again! Thought Sunil, but aloud he asked, “How do you know she’s careless?”
“This evening I saw her son, Tarun, all strewn in muddy clothes, dusty hair and smelly shoes. Yuck!! I was about to puke after seeing him. I am sure she’s self-centred and doesn’t care for her son at all.”
What Nidhi didn’t know was that Mrs. Tiwari’s son had just walked in from football practice. His mother later gave Tarun a good bath, made his favourite pizza for dinner and put him to bed with a lovely story.
Tarla Tiwari, the new neighbour had recently shifted in their colony of bungalows and shared a common fence with the Sharmas. She was a single mother of a ten year old boy and worked from home for a multinational company. Tarla was still busy settling down and hardly had the time to mingle with the next-door people.
Nidhi was a housewife and very meticulous in her work. Her only drawback was that she didn’t take a minute to pull a dot and stretch it into a line. She made assumptions and was quick to criticise others. Sunil loved his wife, but this was one aspect about her which was completely intolerable.
Puffing a deep sigh, Sunil sat down before asking patiently, “Nidhi, how many times have you met Mrs. Tiwari?”
“Not even once. But I saw her son Tarun, his messy state clearly shows what type of a mother Tarla must be.” Sunil shook his head in defeat and let the topic drop. He didn’t wish to create an argument and spoil the peace of the house. Nevertheless, he kept pondering over the matter and wondered how he could help his wife to be less judgemental and become a more insightful person.
A couple of days later, whilst packing his tiffin, Nidhi commented, “Sunil, yesterday Parvati was telling me that Mrs. Tiwari got a huge alimony in her divorce and that’s how she bought this bungalow.” Before Sunil could comment, Nidhi continued with her prejudiced tittle-tattle, “I really pity her husband. She must be such a cold-blooded woman. I can’t imagine what manners she will teach her son.”
Sunil was getting late, however he realised that her scandal material was growing bulkier. It was high time Nidhi wised up and did some self-analysis before she regressed into a toxic unlikable individual. Taking her by the hand, he motioned her to sit next to him and began gingerly, “Nidhi, you haven’t spoken to that lady even once, and simply on the basis of rumours you are building up a castle of misconceptions about somebody. Don’t you think it is insensitive to do that?”
“Sunil, everyone cannot be wrong.”
Sunil didn’t want to play the blame game, his main aim was that Nidhi must gain self enlightenment, only that would transform her outlook towards others. Precautiously, he suggested something innovative, “Nidhi, do one thing. Make a nice dessert and take it to Mrs. Tiwari’s house,welcoming her to our neighbourhood. Invite her to our place for dinner. What do you think?”
Nidhi loved the idea, more with the intention of getting a little bit of first hand gossip, except that she was taken by surprise when she entered Tiwari’s bungalow. Tarla seemed genuinely happy to see Nidhi and greeted her with a pleasant smile. While accepting the caramel pudding from her, she remarked, “Oh Nidhi! That’s so kind of you. Thank you so much. Please have a seat and give me five minutes. I was helping Tarun with his homework, because then he’ll run away to play football.”
Nidhi marked that her new neighbour’s house was spic and span. Moreover, Tarla was working on the computer and helping her son with his Chemistry assignment at the same time. She introduced her son to Nidhi and asked him to wish her. Nidhi also noted that her son was courteous and well cultured. After he left for his match, Tarla came back with two mugs of steaming coffee and some homemade cookies. Guilt of preconceived notions tied a knot in her throat, but Tarla was very happy to see Nidhi and started chatting freely. As the conversation progressed, Nidhi learnt that Tarla was a widow and that bungalow she had bought on loan. She also came to know of the hardships that Tarla had to endure as a single parent. Tarla was quite an extrovert and Nidhi enjoyed talking with her.
When Sunil entered the house later that night, Nidhi was unusually quiet. Upon coaxing, she slowly unplugged herself. “I’m sorry Sunil. You were right. I had a lot of delusions about Tarla. She’s actually a lovely human being. I really liked her a lot.”
Sunil’s relief was floating in his broad satisfactory grin. But Nidhi’s confession wasn’t enough, he wanted something more from her. Enveloping her hand in his, he began lovingly, “Sweetheart, I’m truly glad to hear that. Remember darling, your perception of others is a reflection of your character, not theirs. Are you getting my point?” Nidhi smiled and admitted guiltily, “Yes Sunil, I understand. I promise to change myself.”
Bringing her close, he engulfed her in his arms and said, “Nidhi, you are a wonderful lady, you only needed an awakening.”
He bopped her nose and bantered, “If you can’t contain yourself and feel that curiosity will kill the cat, then it is better to ask questions and find out the right information rather than being critical.” Nidhi punched him lightly and they both burst out laughing. Nidhi’s soulful insight was her transformation; what’s more, she and Tarla became friends for life!
Shamim Merchant, Mumbai