Avni valued her privacy and hated nosy neighbors. Why couldn’t they just mind their own business? Do they have to ask all their intrusive questions every single time they met her? Sigh! She shouldn’t have moved into this large community. An apartment might have been nicer. It seems like the Great Indian Family out here. Everyone thinks every one else’s life is their concern.

Avni had only recently moved into her own home with her husband and toddler son. The gated community was still seeing residents move on. Some of the homes were in various stages of construction and occupancy was still just about 50%. Yet, she had neighbors on all the sides. Most of them were these homemakers who would gather to gossip with each other as soon as their husbands left for work. Looks like they had no other work all day long except chat with each other or watch their silly soaps on TV. What did they understand the life of a working woman like her? She felt no connection with them. She prayed every single day that they would not catch her to do small talk as she left for work while their eyes hovered all over her body. She hated their appraising looks.


It was evening. She was languishing behind as her son, Anil, cycled on the road near her house. Suddenly he fell down the bike. Children fell all the time! She was a little distance away when suddenly a few ladies ran to her son. They lifted his howling form from the road. He had fallen on his face and was bleeding. His eyebrow was a mess! Seeing so much blood shocked Avni. She suddenly felt dizzy and panicky.

A hospital was some 4 kms. away, and her husband had taken their car. She would have to rush and get an auto and take him to hospital immediately. While she was dialing her husband in panic, her next door neighbor, Sulekha, came swiftly towards her. She offered to drive Avni and Anil to the hospital. Avni gratefully accepted the offer. Sulekha took them to the Emergency Room where a doctor attended to Anil who was by now delirious with pain. He was given medication and needed multiple stitches on his eye brow. Sulekha was there with them all the while, quiet and supportive. The whimpering child could finally be taken home with his medications and other precautions detailed by the doctor.

Avni’s husband, Suresh, took quite a while to reach home as he was caught in the peak evening traffic. By that time, Avni and Anil were home. The crisis had blown over. Their dinner was on the dining table helpfully supplied by other neighbors. Everyone had spurred into action to help her despite her moody and aloof behavior with them all along.

The Great Indian family, indeed! She smiled to herself.



89 Thoughts on “The Great Indian family!

  1. The second half of your story sounds like people in our building, Rachna. They came forward to help when my husband met with an accident. The rest of the time they hardly make eye contact, much less gossip! Peace reigns. 😉

  2. Oh well let me just say I was a bit like Avni, but then like her I also learnt my lesson 🙂

  3. You convey messages beautifully via quaint little stories. This reminds me of my neighbour who carried our son to the hospital when he suffered a deep cut on his knee. And I never really liked the man.

  4. We have all been touched by strangers/ neighbour’s generosity in one way or other. last month during monsoons our car got stuck in a hole in road and suddenly there were people pushing the car and helping us without even asking. and they were complete strangers.

  5. nice one Rachna. yup, neighbors are a necessary evil 😀

  6. wow ! neighbourhood relationships are soon dying out or are they?

  7. What a happy story Rachna! Gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling. 🙂

  8. Rachna! The problem lies not in the world but in us 🙂 I generally feel that it is the one that leads to the other. In the past, it was because people readily adopted you as part of their family that they also took all the freedom that a family member takes in your private affairs. And rushed to help you in need.

    That, at least, is the thing with the intrusiveness that our more westernized sensibilities reject in India. With closeness and intimacy comes intrusiveness too and we, who need a decent period of time before admitting someone into proximity, get put off by the people who assume it far sooner than is comfortable for us.

    Of course, nowadays we tend to mix the west and east picking the worst of both. So, we keep the intrusiveness of our heritage and take the aloofness of the west and mix it into an unappealing mess. Thank God there are still a few who retain the old flavor.

    • Very well thrashed out and excellent observations, Suresh! You have addressed the reason for the social problem perfectly and have encapsulated what I was trying to convey.

      You know I had a German friend who found it strange that Indians continued to live with their parents well past adulthood. He said his then girlfriend had left him because he continuously visited his mother. Phew! I love our system where we continue to live with our parents and care for them even if we don’t live physically with them even if it sounds outdated. And yes, with that proximity comes a right to give and take advice which some may look upon as interference. The same works for the society. When we wholeheartedly reach out to friends and neighbours with love, respect and affection, they will reciprocate. And with proximity comes intrusiveness which is not necessarily bad. It is bad when we tend to make that a habit even with people we’ve just met or clearly those who are not yet close us for us.

      Indeed, thank God for the wonderful souls who still look after us and are up in a jiffy if we are in trouble.

  9. A sweet little story, Rachna. Makes you all warm inside. Times of need show us the true, most beautiful, sides to people who may seem quite a pain otherwise. Nice one! 🙂

  10. mahabore on September 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm said:

    A nice cute small story, highlighting the pros and cons of the Great Indian Family system. Although the family is quite irritating especially to our generation where privacy is valued more than generations before ours, the fact remains that we are all part of this circus, and might as well learn to live with it, taking only the good parts and discarding the irritating parts…

    • Welcome to my blog, mahabore! Indeed, our generation definitely does value its privacy much more. But then it is our generation which also faces issues of loneliness, lack of friends and depression much more. When in need, we cannot even approach the neighbor for help because we have never invested in efforts to cultivate friendships. So, it clearly is a double-edged sword. Besides, I was also trying to point out that we base so much on mere impressions. Sometimes they can be wrong too. Thanks for reading.

  11. Two posts in a row I have read this afternoon (yours and Sakshi’s), both talked about various ways we judge people. Sometimes our assessment is on the mark. At other times, it is so way off!
    This was a great essay on how we go around making about silly impressions about others. Wish we weren’t so petty!

    • Thank you, Rickie! You are absolutely right! We slot people and immediately close ourselves to them. In general, we have become highly opinionated, intolerant and judgmental. Sometimes the impressions are warranted, at other times completely unfounded.

  12. So, no one is really petty… not even the ones who gossip… so long as they are there to help you in your time of need. What matters is your readiness to assist.

    Arvind Passey

    • Not at all, Arvind! I was merely trying to say that impressions can be faulty and unfounded. Just because someone is different from us, it does not make them bad.

  13. I believe no one is perfect and no one is useless. Everyone we meet does have a purpose in our life. Some day, Somewhere.

    Neighbors, some of them though nosy and intrusive, are indeed a great help in times of need. The best part is they do it all the time, without having to ask them. Truly a Great Indian Family. 🙂 Loved it.

    • Thanks Rekha! Not everyone we meet has a place in our lives. But often, we push perfectly nice people away because we have judged them too quickly. And I hope we all remember when we cross the line when we try to interfere in another person’s affairs.

  14. ya its always surprising with neighbors. some times they r friendly like those in this case but in my apartment no one is interested in even talking or knowing who U r . its an opposite story to this 🙂 hence I am doubtful if some one will come fwd to help !

    • I sure hope that if you are ever in an emergency situation some good samaritan will come to your rescue. Perhaps, you need to reach out a little more and will find some like-minded souls. Sometimes we can really hit it off with the seemingly unfriendly or aloof ones. Thanks for reading!

  15. Great Indian Family indeed!! Those aunties who have no other work than to gossip all day long, irritate me to no end. But the other aspect you have highlighted is also true of them. Love them or hate them, they are your extended family!

    • True that, Aditi! Some malicious gossipers we need to avoid at all costs. And those who deliberately try to belittle others need to be taught a lesson. But there are times where what we thought of another person could be a very wrong impression too.

  16. You are right, dear. Neighbors can be as nosy as a pain in the butt. At the same time, they come to our rescue. But this happens only with the great Indian family. We Indians come with a baggage, huh? But maintaining that balance is tough.

    • These days maintaining the balance is tough! There are people who try to get too nosy when we don’t know them enough. But I’ve seen enough kind souls, sometimes even those I’ve hardly interacted with to not give every one a chance at least once. You know, if we curb our judging habit, we do become better people :).

  17. I love all your fiction post.This story is so like me..i hate nosy neighbors.But like second part it only happens in India…..If you are living abroad,nobody gives a damn about others business….

    • Exactly Anu! How strange it is that we want people to care or stand up for us but are not willing to let them into our lives? I remember missing the warmth and camaraderie of Indian neighbors when I lived abroad. Thanks a lot for reading.

  18. Neighbours can definitely be very kind and helpful, despite being nosy. Here, there are many neighbourhoods with families who deliver food if they know of a serious illness, death or other tragedies that occur in any home. My office always starts a fund and prepares dinners if anyone in the office has suffered some kind of loss. The best part is that they’re not even nosy! 😀

    • Yep, US is all about “I,me,myself” culture. In some ways, I love that. But I did miss the cozy, close-knit community feeling there. There is something delightful in our being loud and intrusive :).

  19. It happens with most of the people, including me. And yes, we do realize that interaction and communication is the most important thing missing these days but at the end every thing goes perfect just like the way it happened with Avni! 🙂

  20. It takes a village to raise a child and in the urban world we have to rely on our neighbors for sure. I think everyone has a bitter sweet relation with their neighbors. 🙂

  21. This is our story too. I hate the appraising looks whenever you pass them as they stand in a group and chat, either near the lift or the parking lot or at the main gate waiting for the kids to come back from school. But have seen a call to somebody for a tiny lil help and they’ll go out of their way to help and support! A nicely woven story, Rachna 🙂

    • Indeed, it is a story that all of us can relate to including the impressions, the stereotypes that come into play and the surprising generosity. I have noticed that I have become less cynical over the years too :). Thanks for reading, Shilpa!

  22. I am one of those very unfriendly moms in my society who does not invite anyone for a cup of tea nor is a part of kitty parties!

    • I am not in the kitty party circuit either. But most of these ladies are quite warm and nice if one just attempts a bit of small talk, I’ve noticed :). Thanks for visiting, Pratibha!

  23. Well, humans are social beings and we cannot alienate ourselves for long. People can surprise us sometimes with their kindness. That being said, we cannot deny the nosy nature as well. People who are corporate employees are also nosy anyway (some or probably most of them) 😀
    I think it is about drawing a fine line between where to stop them poking their nose into our family affairs and being moderately social as well I think.

    • I feel that it is the other way around. It is nice to be on cordial terms with your neighbors so it helps to share small talk and a smile. It does not take much. If in the bargain, one finds a good friend, it is a bonus. Else, keep it to the level of friendly acquaintance. And these days it is not so difficult to truncate conversations that try to get too personal without establishing a personal equation before hand. I think one cannot be existing without the other. If we open our heart to someone’s friendship, they will get personal in their talk just like we do with our close family and friends.At least I don’t look at my friends asking personal questions as intruding.

  24. The Great Indian family, indeed! Not sure if such a kind of thing can ever happen here in the UK.

  25. A very emotional story. You have nlcely portrayed the reality of the neighbours,who indulge in all sorts of gossip, but in an emergency they prove to be helpful, understanding and co operative. This is India!!

  26. It has it’s advantages I suppose – makes it bearable at the end 🙂

  27. Neighbors are big help, at times. Good story, Rachna.

  28. This story seems similar ………*thinking, thinking*

  29. Rachna i too have been blessed with such neighbors-i take their interest in us as their concern & not intrusiveness;but yes only a thin line divides the two.Still rather than being left alone,i would opt for intrusiveness.

    • Ah Indu! I agree. There is a very thin line between concern, genuine caring and intrusion. Alas, most people overdo it. But like you, I’ve been helped once too often personally. I am willing to be more tolerant and less judgmental these days. Thanks for reading!

  30. Rachna,with Social problems on the increase,with family size getting smaller,with both working and the need for comforts has made it essential to get used to community living.
    We have a large condo,but,everyone is always available for help

  31. Oh God, I am quite like Avni, I dont like people in my face … an attitude I developed because I belong to a huge joint family where someone or the other is always in your business

  32. Very balanced view, Rachna. Nice story.

  33. You will still see a lot of virtues intact in the Indians especially in the low mid class and middle class but those who have climbed higher are now mostly alienated and live their own lives!

  34. This is quite relevant in todays time. We look down upon simple women who take care of their family and find solace in watching daily soaps. They might or might not be as smart as a working woman, but they do have a heart of gold! I’m blessed to know quite a few ladies like that and feel the need to be less judgemental.

  35. Life’s lovely little lessons of humility to keep your feet firmly on ground 🙂

  36. I have yet to find some nice neighbours. Till now, I have come across only idiots of the worse kind. 🙂

  37. What a warm little story. I am fortunate to have some great neighbours and completely depend on them to lend a helping hand. Makes me feel grateful 🙂

  38. The real Indian family members do have their own share of pluses and minuses. What to say about the neighbors Rachna. One thing I feel after being away is that Indian neighbors are a lot more tolerant than their counterparts in other parts. They dont make a fuss of small things and yes they come in time for help and dont act like ‘WhY do I care?’

    • I completely agree, Jaish! I believe the give and take comes with warmth and compassion. As our attitudes transform to each to their own, the society starts showing more aloofness.

  39. Small talk and smile, thats what I meant about being moderately social.
    Me too am very friendly person smiling with all the neighbours. Here it is completely other way round. We cannot even hear sounds from our next door neighbour and they have 2 kids. This is the other extreme. We only meet during the housing society meetings. Apart from that we just say ‘ hi or bye’.
    I as a person prefer our space than letting our neighbours get too personal with us 🙂 and you might have guessed it by now that I feel them being intruding into our space if they do so.
    I am of the opinion that to help other human, we do not need to be too personal with them. Humans usually have it in our genes to help in need, unless they are of fiendish/non-society material :-p

    • Bhavana, now the line between someone getting person and too personal is really hazy. It could depend upon a lot of things like our mood on that day. But, personally I try to give a friendly nod and smile every time I pass by a bunch of ladies gathered together. I guess, we all know how to stop the very interfering types in their tracks. We aren’t as tolerant as our mothers were :). My point was in jumping to conclusions and shutting out people based on mistaken assumptions. We tend to do that a lot these days.

  40. Great Indian Family indeed..
    a good neighborhood can prove to be very helpful in times like these. But, sadly such social elements are gradually diminishing.
    People talk to each other only when in need..

    Family is good.. but at the same time pokey family can make a hell out of neighbor hood

    • Yep, Jyoti! I guess it is both ways. We are increasingly getting more content to be on our own and any intrusion well meaning or otherwise is not welcome. As nuclear families become the norm, it is not uncommon to see neighbors not knowing each other at all.

  41. I guess neighbours everywhere are the same. They might seem annoying sometimes but when there’s an emergency they are the first ones to help. God bless them! 🙂

  42. When they’re good, they are good. When they’re bad they can be really bad 😀 What can I say. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them! Cheers to neighbours and the great Indian family 🙂

  43. Pingback: Tangy Tuesday Picks-Nice Indian posts picked from blogs each week.

  44. Team BlogAdda on October 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm said:

    This post has been selected for the Tangy Tuesday Picks this week. Thank You for an amazing post! Cheers! Keep Blogging 🙂