COPY THY NEIGHBOR
( A funny short story)
“What’s this?” I questioned my mother after lifting the lid of a utensil,” Why are you serving us pieces of rubber tubes?” My sister Rhea giggled along with Dad and Granny. My mom glared at me and replied,” I don’t want any more cheeky comments from you. It’s pasta and not rubber tubes. Our neighbor, Mrs. Verma, and her family had pasta for their breakfast this morning. I saw her post an update about it on Facebook. Why should I lag behind her? I have updated it on my Facebook page as well. I won’t let her rub it in my face that I am not tech-savvy.”
The rest of us groaned in misery after hearing her explanation. She had caught ‘ Copy thy neighbor’ syndrome. My grandma opened her mouth,” Let’s assume that her family has diarrhea after consuming the junk food. Will she post the tragic pictures of her family members frequenting the toilet? I can imagine her caption. She will say, ” I am having loose motions and stomach ache with four others in my family.” Honestly, Alka. Is it necessary to mention how you are spending every moment of your life on social media?”
Mom was thoroughly embarrassed after the verbal lashing by Granny.
Mrs. Shweta Verma always bragged about her possessions and latest travel adventures. She infuriated many women in our neighborhood. Mom never learned her lesson. She tried to copy whatever Mrs. Verma did. One day I thought of tricking her into remaining silent. I conspired with my elder sister, Rhea, and my father to send a message through WhatsApp. We contacted our cousin to send a WhatsApp message through an unknown number.
The next day I put our plan into action.
“Mom,” I said enthusiastically,” I received a WhatsApp message from my distant enemy’s mother. She says that keeping your upper and lower jaws together for a whole day is immensely beneficial to health and guarantees peace in the family.”
Mom believes in all the trash offered by WhatsApp and Facebook. She was quite excited. I went on to elaborate,” It’s a new form of Yoga and called Maunasana.” She didn’t realize that I had indirectly asked her to keep her mouth shut. Rhea and Dad tried to stifle their laughter. Mom immediately shut her mouth and took a selfie. She received the maximum number of likes for her post. I think most of them were men.
Mrs. Verma stormed in like a raging bull after going through Mom’s post. She had both her hands on her hips. She screamed,” I demand an explanation for this craziness, Alka. I don’t believe in Maunasan. How can you do this to other women?” Mom was pleased with her reaction. She wanted to infuriate her. Instead of answering her questions orally, she started writing on a piece of paper. She handed back the paper to Mrs. Verma.
Our irked neighbor suddenly cackled like a witch and said, ” Alka, How foolish can you be! There is no such thing as Maunasan. Your daughter played a joke on you. She simply asked you to shut up. I must admit that you look quite pretty with your big mouth closed. My husband is adamant that I should learn a lesson or two from you. It’s never going to happen.”
Mom was angry but controlled her temper. She snatched the paper from her and wrote,” At least I have proved that I can keep my mouth shut for as long as I can. I bet that it’s impossible to close your mouth even while you are asleep.” Mrs. Verma replied,” I am going to prove that you are wrong in your assumption. I will keep quiet for a whole day. If I win, you have to acknowledge me as the undisputed queen of this society. If I lose, I promise never to provoke you or other women in our society.”
The next day, much to mom’s chagrin. Mrs.Verma won the challenge. She strutted around the society as proud as a peacock. She came to visit us with a box of sweets, and there was a maniacal glee in her voice.
She wore an expensive Saree and said,” Alka, I hope you remember the challenge. Why don’t you accept your defeat and acknowledge that I am the queen of this society?”Mom grumbled and scribbled something on the paper. She gave it to Mrs. Verma, whose joy knew no bounds after reading the content. Mom’s next course of action took everyone by surprise. Our domestic help had finished doing the dishes. Mom grabbed the sweet box and thrust it into her hands. ” Take it, Shanti,” Mom exclaimed, ” You deserve it more than us.” Mrs. Verma looked as if someone had slapped her. ” I spent 500₹ to give you Kaju Katli, and this is the reward you give me for my sweet gesture, ” complained our snarky neighbor.
Mom smirked at her and ignored her rambling. Mrs.Verma left in a foul mood.
The next day, we were busy with our online classes. We could hear mom taking out her fury on the vessels. Clang! Thud! Bong! At this rate, we would have to buy new utensils.
The doorbell rang, and Mom went to open it. Mrs. Chatterbox walked in with a box of sweets. ” Oh, no! ” Mom groaned, ” I didn’t expect this from you. I thought you were my best friend. Did Mrs. Verma tell you about her victory and my loss?”
Mrs. Chatterbox replied,” Don’t jump to any conclusion. I bought this to celebrate that snide queen’s downfall. A stranger accompanied by the police constable paid a visit to Mrs. Verma. According to Gita, our maid who also works for The Vermas, Mrs. Verma was wearing a stolen Saree. Her husband had bought it from a roadside vendor for a paltry sum. The stranger claimed that she had purchased this saree for 40,000₹ from Citi Centre Shopping Mall. It was a Banarasi Silk Saree, peacock blue in color with intricate golden designs at the border. She had given it for dry cleaning. The drunkard husband of the lady, who owned the laundry shop, had stolen it and sold it in a local market. Mrs. Verma had posted her pics on Facebook. The original owner of the saree recognized it and called the cop to get back her product. Mrs. Verma pleaded with the lady to withdraw her complaint and offered to return the saree. That’s why we have the police jeep outside our building.” Mom was so thrilled to hear the news that she hugged Mrs. Chatterbox and wasted no time in distributing sweets. I felt sorry for Mrs. Verma. Mrs. Chatterbox added, ” Mr. Verma is in deep trouble. He has been giving her lavish gifts. But I spotted him with Gita. They were smooching each other in the kitchen. Can you believe it? He is having an affair with his domestic help.”
Mom’s expression changed. Mrs. Verma was humiliated after the police set foot in her house. The poor lady was ignorant of her husband cheating on her. Mom closed the door after Mrs. Chatterbox.
I asked her, ” You always imitated her every action. Are you going to allow Dad to have an affair with our maid?”
Mom was ready to throw her rolling pin at me while I escaped to my room. My grandma and sister laughed heartily. Even Mom joined them. So much for Copy thy neighbor syndrome