It was a hot summer evening in Delhi and we had just had a new tenant in our house, the Srinivasan family. Mr Srinivasan had a job with a private company and had just been transferred to his company’s Delhi office after being promoted to the national level. For the Srinivasans it was the first ever experience of living out of their home town, Chennai. I thought, had it not been for better career prospects of Mr Srinivasan, the family would not have ventured out to a completely unknown territory in favour of a quasi-permanent residency in Delhi. Barriers of language, culture, food habits and apprehensions about leaving their larger family and friends back home, prevent many from taking such a bold decision. Giving up years of comfortable living in Chennai and choosing to throw themselves into a completely new culture outside one’s own, was an audacious decision by any standards back then. Replacing tamil with hindi as a language of communication in day to day life is not easy even for children let alone for elders. Sensing their apprehension, me and my parents decided to make their living a little easy.
After they had arranged their stuff on the day they shifted, I hurriedly prepared a box of gift for the family to welcome them to their new home as well as in our hearts. While my mother handed the gift box to Mrs Srinivasn, Mr Srinivasan remarked ‘Dil walon ki dilli’ in a slightly awkward tone. We all burst into an impromptu laughter. That was how their journey far away from home began with a simple happy note. That day we had dinner together at our home.
[ Also Read: Shifting in the neighbourhood ]
My mother took up the onus of introducing Mrs Srinivasan to the local market place for procuring daily provisions to make the transition as smooth as possible. My father invited Mr Srinivasan to join the group of morning walkers and introduced him to a few residents so that he had friends. We never observed any formalities or protocols that usually bind a tenant and a landlord, we lived as one family. After a couple of months, the Srinivasans could converse in Hindi and were well versed with locational dynamics including places of worship, procuring monthly provisions, vendors of milk, vegetables & newspaper and a trustworthy friendly neighbourhood doctor. We accompanied them to the mandir. We guided them in choosing a good school for their children.
Time flew like cool wind. A few years into it, there were talks within the Srinivasan family of taking a bigger accommodation in Gurgaon as collective aspirations soared high and swanky neighbourhood held its sway. But it was lady Srinivasan who refused to budge. She was the one who convinced her family of staying back saying that it is not the four walls make it a home but the people whom they stay with. She reminded her husband how every need of theirs, big or small, had been cared for by the landlord and the landlady since the time they shifted. What mattered is the relationship one shares with his or her neighbours. For the last many years, me, my sister and the Srinivasan kids have played together, celebrated all the festivals together which has created strong bonds among us children. Where else will they witness this sense of camaraderie?
In due course of time, Mr Srinivasan’s son completed his studies at IIM and recently started a successful professional career with one of the e-tailers. His daughter is a doctor at a private hospital. The family has lived in the same house for nearly 15 years and only now upon retirement did Mr Srinivasan firm up his plans on moving back to Chennai joining his larger family knowing very well that the last 15 years were well spent in the lap of comfort, care and friendship. I consider it God’s will that me and my family were chosen to provide help and assistance to complete strangers by sending them to our home as tenants. I hope that even if they move to Chennai, our hearts will always remain close together. Though physical interactions might reduce but in today’s age of technology, no distance is too far. One can remain in touch by way of WhatsApp and video call.
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