A week back the CCTV guys came to install the rather smart looking ( read:bloody expensive) surveillance system in my house.My K9 hooligan gang, consisting of six Great Danes, one each of Boxer, Labrador, Daschund, Pug ,are quite enough to deter and maim any hapless intruder–plus, they are aided by the ever growing desi community dogs who I feed and take care of.Yet,my well to do and highly successful friends were insistent on the CCTV-”It is a big deterrent and you especially need it”, they told me caustically, perhaps a wee bit miffed at my hippie lifestyle.
Soon, the perimeter of the house, rooftops, drive way , all entrances were being fortified. The chaps worked efficiently and converesed amongst themselves in some unintelligible technical jargon. I sleepily watched them as Roberta Flack crooned on my headphones, content that they were doing the job well.
The peace was broken suddenly with the arrival of my next door neighbor Pammi Aunty, She is the MIss Marple of my colony and a large , imposing lady of around 70 years with henna-ed hair. Originally hailing from Amritsar, she now stays with her son after the death of her husband,While she is definitely well meaning , her inquisitiveness, penchant for giving all sorts of advice and her mission of incessantly culling the neighbourhood’s “secrets”,terrify a lot of people. However, I am one of her favourites for alongwith the advice, she also gets me homemade besan ladoos, mathris, pinni etc.She keeps telling me lovingly that I look like a “Punjabi kudi” that makes me flinch and mentally promise myself that I really need to stop snacking on samosas.
Well, Pammi Aunty was miffed that I had not told her about the CCTV.Soon her anger dissolved though as she set about to inspect the range , placement, efficacy etc of the system. The technicians quailed at the onslaught. But the team head was able to answer her satisfactorily–it perhaps helped that he had friends and family in Punjab too.Then, she firmly told me that the CCTV needs to be installed inside the house to keep an eye on the staff. My feeble protest that it was unnecessary and that she was watching too many true crime series on Netflix fell on deaf ears. Criminal intentions and plotting by the staff as well as keeping an eye on the ghee, milk,sugar in the kitchen is an existential necessity she hissed. My angst that it will be add to the cost was pooh-pooed away. Using the “mitti di khushboo’ connection, she pounced on the team head and l must admit garnered a delightfully hard bargain. Game, set, match to Aunty! And,I was left with a house security system that would awe any secret service.
A brief note, now, about my life after that fateful day.
Well,to be fair to all –men, women and machine– there was a psychological high, definitely. I felt safe and secure. Everyone in my quiet neighbourhood talked about it with awe. I even became a CCTV role model!
But, my joy was short lived. My identity morphed into that of a reverse Big Brother! I draw your attention to George Orwell in 1984 “Always eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or bed- no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters in your skull.”
I kept looking at the monitor, which is installed in my study, every now or then to check for “intrusions”. Each time any of my dogs barked –whether at 4 am or 4 pm— I would rush to peer at the large monitor! If I didn’t see anything, I actually started running to the areas of imagined intrusion at weird times. My predominantly eastern India genes and their unbearable heaviness of being during the afternoon siestas revolted at such uncalled for activity. I panicked when one of the cameras failed—I thought it was tampering rather than possible Chinese goods malfunction. My suspicion became so absolutely live and pulsating that that I started imagining a terror attack from China via the CCTV—very insidiously funny actually.Like the scare sometime back about Facebook leaking all your information/data—I had panicked too! Till I realized that the information is as worthless as me.
Yet, despite the obvious and unnecessary discomfort, I hung on to the CCTV.
The chilling climax comes now.
Thanks to Pammi Aunty’s intervention and the CCTV inside the house, I was privy to vital acts and information that had a deep bearing on my being.
I saw that my cook sneezed while tempering that tasty “arhar dal” which I loved. He didn’t switch on the fan, as ‘thaaanda laagche’’, while kneading the ‘atta’—I trembled at the possible final destination of the droplets of sweat. Sometimes, he lovingly checked to see whether male appendages in the southern anatomical regions of his body , were there or not.
I saw that my maid preened in front of my full length mirror. My smile turned into a snarl when I saw her liberally using my Forest Essentials Ojas Glow Night Beauty Balm–why, I gingerly dip my pinky finger into the exorbitant pot to take out just a wee amount!
The gardner snored behind the big oak tree during much of his working hours while my Man Friday watched Tik -Tok videos on his mobile and laughed uproariously if he was not checking out the maid’s voluptuous charms and trying to engage her in “ishq baazi”
And then I heard snippets of conversations about me and my lifestyle: why does she have so many dogs, is that photo of the bearded man ( Che Guevara) her husband’s, why is she always in old track pants, arrey baba how much coffee she drinks, she is nice but sometimes screams unnecessarily , tell her she will become deaf if she listens to loud music, why should there be three types of floor cleaner, yesterday she had a fight on phone and used horrible gaalis…cheeee, maybe the bearded shahib’s name is JImmy Page coz she was telling someone she will only marry him ,why does she not go to the beauty parlor like me ,is she going to set up a book shop, why so many books,her friends are drunkards and sutte baazis, never goes to the temple , she ate omelette on karwa chauth…hai ram,what a crazy woman she is …talks to the cat etc etc.
The verdict thus as you see, was not encouraging at all! I brooded and sulked.I even forgot to listen to Led Zeppelin! Such was my existential angst.
Deep introspection led me to the conclusion that I can’t and wont change my staff—for despite some of their irritating and rather ghastly idiosyncrasies, I sense an innate goodness in them. How ? Each one of them actually loves my animals.That is a character trait of the highest order for me.Period.
And naturally, I cant change myself.I am not just the black but the psychedelic sheep of the family. But I will be unashamedly, unapologetically me.
For peace of mind, thus, out went the CCTV.
I guess I will rescue couple more dogs.