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Ding Dung Bell

Illustration: Satheesh Vellinezhi  

Dear Agony Akka,

My neighbours, one middle-aged couple with no children, are the worst. They are constantly spying on me and my brother and reporting to parents. If my class boys are coming for notes, she is reporting. If brother’s friends are talking loudly, he is complaining. If you listen to them, you will think we are last remains of Roman Empire lingering behind to do leftover orgy. Last week they became super nuisance. We did one small party at home and cooked mutton biriyani, prawn fry, chicken 65. Since then neighbours are complaining non-stop — too much non-veg, offensive smells, inconsiderate, hurting sentiments, on and on and on. It is unbearable. Please suggest some solutions.

— Going Almost Loony

Dear GAL,

I am always sympathetic to neighbour problems because I also hate neighbours. Both my top floor and second floor neighbours are unbearable. Always wanting to visit. Or calling me for walks. Or giving me unsolicited advice. I want to ask them, I am Agony Akka or you two, please keep quiet.

In your case, however, perhaps you have made one basic error. You did not invite couple to Diwali party. If you had and if you could have persuaded your parents to give them a drink or two, all might have been sunshine between you all. Now it is too late. Now naturally they will complain about food smells.

This complaint seems to be peculiar speciality of Indian landlords. Once I met prospective landlord who is living in Boston and eating fully non-veg burger and pizza but he was insisting that his flat in Kasturba Nagar is for 100% vegetarian tenant only. So I asked him if his flat was veg and he was non-veg but he was unable to give me any suitable reply.

Another prospective landlady was living in Seoul for many years where you know they put fish oil even into salads. All her neighbours were strictly omnivorous, following the principle that if something moves, they will eat it. Landlady is a very tolerant person over there, not bothered by any smells whatsoever that emanate from next-door window. But if you cook eggs in her flat in Chennai, approximately 5,000 km away, the smells are bothering her and so she wants fully vegetarian tenant.

Indian vegetarian people be like, we are so sensitive everybody must respect our nose. Yet, funnily enough, asafoetida or hing is considered one of the most offensive smells in the cuisine world. In fact, it is called Devil’s Dung and people claim it stinks of rotten garlic. Or sweat. One whole Agatha Christie novel was solved because of its bad smell giving away the killer. Yet, ask your neighbour aunty to cook without hing and she will swoon in horror.

The only way to tackle is to get on the low horse. Please see if you can somehow order durian fruit. It is strictly vegetarian, like most fruits. But the smell it emits has been variously described as that of raw sewage or rotting flesh. Keep it casually on the dining table and invite your neighbours over.

Or try and get someone to bring you some natto from Japan. These are sticky, fermented soya beans and they stink of dirty gym socks. Again, 100% veg.

As your nice neighbours turn sickly green, you can quietly inform about fish fingers on next week’s menu. They will beg you to cook non-veg for rest of your life. Next time uncle-aunty beef about something, remind them that the stakes are equal — one person’s Devil’s Dung is invariably on another person’s tongue.

— AA

agony.akka@gmail.com


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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 7:55:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/ding-dung-bell/article37574918.ece

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