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Probing questions, prying eyes

“Sir, I notice that you have recently shifted into this area. What do you do,” asked the autorickshaw driver as he was turning into the lane leading to my apartments.

I had slowly started getting used to such “searching” questions ever since relocating to Kerala from Delhi. While it was quite unimaginable for any auto driver in Delhi to be asking such questions, it was more a rule than an exception in my new place for everyone to know everything about everyone else.

Having by now realised that such Q&A sessions were the norm in these parts, invoking my best behaviour, I replied, “Yes, I have only recently shifted. I have retired and am not doing anything.”

I thought this reply would end the ongoing “probe”. But I was wrong. The driver was one who was imbued not just with well-meaning curiosity but also a desire to reach out and help senior citizens find the ways and means to spend their evenings. He chuckled in delight at having found the perfect solution for me. “Sir, you might have seen a group of senior citizens sitting on the bench below the lamppost in the corner. They will be very happy to have you join them,” he said.

Finding that I was not particularly excited at this well-intentioned proposal of his, he added for good measure: “Sir, all those people have retired from senior positions and are well off.”

Huddled in dim light

I would often see this venerable group huddled on the bench under the dim lights from an adjacent lamp post. What I didn’t quite fancy was the positioning of the bench, placed right at the edge of the turning leading to my apartment. I would often notice that the group’s attention would turn to anyone going or coming out of the apartment.

Four or five pairs of eyes, even if from venerable senior citizens, were not exactly something that a person like me, coming from Delhi, where attention had to be earned, was used to. I would find the assemblage seated even till as late as 8 p.m. The dimness of the light above the bench only added to the general murkiness of the group.

A couple of times when walking past the group during late evening, I would almost sense that it was only a matter of time, or at best, a walk or two past them again, that someone from the group will want to “know” a little more about me. But recently, I came to know that following some “privacy” concerns and complaints, the group has now relocated itself to another bench, more private even if less strategic!

I can now walk past the lane without the feeling of being “X-rayed” by several pairs of “over-observant” eyes.

ashokwarrier27@gmail.com

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 6:58:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/probing-questions-prying-eyes/article32935989.ece

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