I live in a building with 10 floors. The 10th is reserved for the penthouse and two other flats. One of these flats had been empty for some time.
About two months ago that changed. A much older gentleman and his family had moved in to the empty flat on the 10th floor on a Friday evening. The date was April 30th. The next day was “May Day” or “Labor Day” as it’s called here in India. On that day, no ‘day laborer’ would be working. Carpenters, Plumbers, Electricians, Maids, Construction Crews, etc, would enjoy a well deserved day off.
Labor Day is actually an International Worker’s Day and is celebrated the world over as the day that people began winning labor rights in the work place. The main focus was on the amount of hours one would work in a given work day. Till today, many countries celebrate this day as one which gives an opportunity to voice concerns, hold rally’s and parades and to make a statement about working conditions. Here in Indi, all of that is feasible, but in actuality it is one of the very few days that day laborers can take off from work without the general public and politicians making their lives miserable for doing so. You see, here in India, national holiday’s only applied to big business and politicians (an unspoken rule). Labor Day is the free day for everyone else.
So, back to Mr. 10th Floor, upon moving in, they discovered that there was a leak issue with one of the water pipes. So they called the maintenance crew and asked for immediate assistance, which they got. The maintenance man told them that the issue was more than he had the experience to fix, however he did a temporary patch that should last until such time that a plumber could look at the issue.
The estimated time till a plumber could arrive? Sunday or Monday, at the latest. The maintenance man further gave his personal cell number to call in case of emergency till that time.
Saturday morning, the Mr. 10th Floor made a very loud, obnoxious verbal complaint about the availability of a plumber on site to the Builder. To which the Builder replied that a plumber IS generally available on the weekends but this being Labor Day weekend, it would be next to impossible to require someone to work.
Mr. 10th Floor was not at all satisfied and stated so, loudly. Mr. Builder finally told him that he is free to hire an outside plumber and be reimbursed. Mr. 10th Floor didn’t like the idea of paying for what should be his free of charge. Mr. Builder tried to explain to him that it was only a temporary payment and gave his personal guarantee of reimbursement. Mr. 10th Floor said he wanted a plumber in his home, ordered by the Builder, by that evening or “wait and watch what will happen”. As he stalked away, Mr. Builder followed saying that was just beyond his abilities.
And so the complex thought that this was the end of the issue and we went about our daily business. The crowd dispersed.
Before I go further in my story, perhaps I should let you in on two pieces of information critical to the understanding of how things escalated from there.
- I am deathly afraid of being stuck in an elevator.
- We are supposed to be notified of water cut off 24 hours in advance by the maintenance crew.
- I can be a light sleeper.
Nothing remarkable occurred the rest of Saturday or Sunday. Till Sunday evening that is. When all hell broke loose.
Sunday evening Bear and I went to bed fairly early. Around midnight I was woken from a deep sleep by what sounded like a crash outside our third floor window. Fearing that someone had come home late, rounded the corner of our building too quickly and hit someone on the way out of the complex, I got up and looked out our window. Nothing. I opened the glass and screen. Nothing, I looked right and got my answer. Someone had not just tipped the large garbage canister at the corner of our building; they had mutilated it against the side of the building. I looked to the left and saw the same thing had happened to the one at the end of our building. Garbage was strewn about the drive and front parking spaces.
And then I heard it. A loud, deep and vicious yelling. It was in Hindi, but I knew it was also coming from someone severely drunk. Seeing nothing from our front bedroom window, I went to our side one. Nothing. But the sound was coming from that corner of the building. I went to our guest bedroom and opened the window and screen, but really it wasn’t needed. I now had a clear view of the drive leading into our complex and the guard-house. I also had a clear view (and sound with the window open) of Mr. 10th Floor stumbling his way up and down the side drive or our complex and yelling his fool head off.
“APPLAUSE!!” The pseudo name of our complex. He yelled it loud, as if he wanted to speak to all of us sleepy residents about some travesty that we must be infuriated to hear about. Instead, I was just infuriated of being woken up by an idiotic drunk old man in the middle of the night.
“APPLAUSE!” he yelled “APPLAUSE! They don’t care! Water leaked! My things destroyed! APPLAUSE!!”
I wanted to finish the work of the water upside his head. Perhaps he might sleep it off then. Either way he would be quiet.
That went on for 15 more minutes until he decided to yell at the guards in the guard-house. Many of them had congregated there when Mr. 10th Floor had started his tirade against the garbage bins. Now I counted at least 8 of them, standing around doing nothing and watching him advance.
Mr. 10th Floor then spent 30 minutes at the guard-house yelling his head off. Throwing anything he could get his hands on. Breaking plastic chairs on the wall of the guard-house. Shoving the table to the ditch. At one point, a larger check in counter got too heavy for him when he lifted it above his head in an effort to pitch it across the garden and he almost fell flat on his ass. I held my breath, almost PRAYING for that to happen. But alas, he dropped it to keep from falling over and retained his drunken balance.
For another 30 minutes this went on, his yelling between the guard-house and the sides of our complex. Finally, he made his way inside our building where he proceeded to yell his way up to the 10th floor. The elevator didn’t escape his wrath either; he banged on it all the way up. Once on the 10th floor, you could still hear his yelling and ranting and banging. Then he rode the elevator back down again, doing the same as he had before. Back up he went, this time getting off on every floor and yelling while banging his fists on the elevator door and inside to make as loud a noise as he could.
I had had enough.
I changed my clothes, grabbed my keys, walked past my cell phone (after all, I had my keys and was staying in the complex) and walked out my front door. By now, I could hear him on the fifth floor. I pressed the button for the elevator, essentially trapping him on the 4th floor and waited for it to arrive. When it did, the inside looked like a flimsy metal punching ground with dents and distortions on every wall. I rode down to the first floor where I kept the elevator doors open and motioned for the four guards standing there to come over.
I “dressed” them down as my father and mother would say. I prefer high-toned bitching. Here is a snippet of our conversation.
Me: “Why aren’t you doing something about Sir?”
Them: “Nahi Madam, Sir is owner.’
Me: “What the **** am I? Chopped liver? I am owner too. Make him stop!”
Them: “Madam, Sir is owner. We call Builder.”
Me: Why are you calling the Builder? Call the police! He is drunk in public. A nuisance. Violating noise order. Destroying private property. CALL. THE. POLICE. Or I will!”
Them: “Nahi Madam, we call builder.”
All the while, you could hear Mr. 10th Floor up on the 4th floor having hysterics, screaming that he wanted the bleeping elevator now and, by the sound of it, either breaking in the elevator door or breaking in someone’s front door. I pressed the button for my floor (below the 4th) and the elevator started. And kept going, passing my own floor, as it neared the 4th floor I became nervous of being confronted with drunken Mr. 10th Floor and began to question my leaving the cell phone at home. Heck, I began to question leaving my home at all.
Between the 3rd and 4th floor, the power went out. No lights. No elevator. Complete and utter darkness. Me…stuck in an elevator. With a raving lunatic now putting every inch of his drunken 5’11 frame into breaking in the elevator door above me. I stood in that pitch black elevator and listened as pieces he knocked loose began to rain on the top of the elevator cabin. I yelled for him to stop, that I was in here, that the power was out. He continued yelling that he wanted the bleeping elevator. The pieces of metal and concrete got larger. I began to scream. Out of fear or anger, I am not sure.
Then the guards got the backup generator running, the elevator turned back on and headed towards its preprogrammed spot of the ground floor after a power failure. Once it reached and the doors opened, I spilled out. Sweating, shaking, I pushed past the guards and ran for the stairs.
My worst nightmare come true had turned me into a burning vessel of hatred and anger. I wanted nothing more than to reach Mr. 10th Floor. To expel all my fear and anger out onto him.
I practically flew up the stairs and on passing my floor ran into my neighbor who had heard my screams and had come out to investigate. Seeing me fly by, he followed. I made it to the 4th floor where Mr. 10th Floor had just had a scuffle with another resident who, fed up with the inactivity of the guards and that his own front door had been dented and nearly destroyed by the old man, had accosted him, smacked him and nearly torn the old man’s shirt from his body. Another man was there holding the resident back. A young woman was there holding the arm of Mr. 10th Floor and calling him Aajoba (which means Grandfather in Marathi). I slowed and walked the last few steps to the landing deliberately, listening to the old man whine over his torn shirt and asking why the resident had accosted him. He started saying how his things had gotten water damage, how no one would help him or even listen to his problems, how APPLAUSE Builder didn’t care about resident’s issues.
I had had enough.
I went to the last step, faced him and said.
“Bas”. (This means stop).
He kept on.
“SHUT THE ****UP!!!!!!!!”
He stopped. Everyone turned to me.
“Because of you, I was woken up at midnight on a work night. Because of you, I’ve had to listen to the ranting of a drunken old man. Because of you, there is litter all over our complex roads. Because of you, our elevator needs repair. Because of YOU, I was stuck in that elevator and fearing for my life!! Now SHUT YOUR MOUTH and go to bed and sleep it off or so help me GOD I will call the police and have you arrested on the spot for harassment and threat to my life. DO YOU HEAR ME???”
No one spoke.
I turned to the girl.
“If you don’t take your Grandfather upstairs and keep him quiet, I swear that you will be visiting him at the police station from tonight onward. If you don’t believe me, try me.”
And like that, the old Mr. 10th Floor man lost some of his height. He started hemming and hawing but before he could build up steam I yelled “I’m going to count to 10 and I swear you had better be in that ****ing elevator before I reach it!!” ONE, TWO, THREE….!”
And they were gone. The granddaughter didn’t even have to pull him that hard. They disappeared down the hall and into the waiting elevator. Not another word was heard from them. Shaking, I turned to the other resident and thanked him for his bravery. Then I turned to the guards and told them that they were “Bakwas” which means pathetic. I walked downstairs with my neighbor close at hand. He admonished me on the way down that my behavior was risky, I should not have done that. I agreed, but I kept walking, not saying anything. He asked if I was ok. I said yes. I unlocked my door, wished him a good night, thanked him for coming up to make sure I was ok and went inside my home.
I locked the door and put out the lights. I stood there in the dark, shaking over what had happened and what I had done.
I debated over telling my husband and finally decided that I needed to. That honesty was the best policy. That it was better to hear it from me than one of the people who had witnessed it. I wanted to wait till the morning, but my own keyed up mind and body wouldn’t allow that.
So, I woke my husband up and told him everything.
That night we had a long and involved conversation, which pretty much amounted to him not wanting to change who I am, only asking me to add some things to my being. Like adding spices to a dish. He asked me to add a touch more caution and patience to my brew. He asked me to come to him first when anger brewed that heavily. He promised to never stop me, to stand beside me and only help me to calm down if I wanted it. By asking these things of me instead of demanding a change or handcuffed me to our home, my husband taught me to have more restraint. If not for myself, then for his sake at least.
Around 8am the next morning, as we began getting ready for the day ahead, we came to realize that there was no water supply. No water for shower, no water for the toilet, no water for cooking or anything else. We both decided to go downstairs and learn the issue as we also wanted to stop and have a word with the builder about last night’s activities. I also wanted to show Bear the elevator door on the 4th floor.
By now, the elevator was off and the alternate one had been turned on three weeks ahead of schedule (they alternate every month or so). On the fourth floor, we found that the walls had damage, one of the neighbors doors was dented and barely closed and the elevator doors were so distorted that you could view inside and down into the shaft itself where damage could also be seen. My husband stood there, viewing the damage. Turned to look at me. Hugged me tight and made me swear to always bring him with me on one of my crusades. I promised.
We then went to the Builder and Maintenance, where we learned that the water was off due to Mr. 10th Floor and wouldn’t be back on for another hour. The builder informed us that this was needed so that they could repair the pipe issue in Mr. 10th Floor’s flat quickly and without incident. I asked him if he was aware of what had happened the night before. He said no. We asked him to come with us. We showed him the damage on our floor and the fourth floor and the elevator. I told him a condensed version of the night before.
My husband then asked him if it was fair that we, the other residents of our building who had to suffer the night before, that we again had to suffer on a working day with no water.
The builder said that Mr. 10th Floor was an owner and as such had to be helped. We agreed but my husband asked him if whether it could have been delayed so that the innocent in this farce could have had water to prepare for work.
The builder said it was an issue pending since Friday evening when they had moved in, that their furniture was damaged. We asked if it would have been damaged had they not kept it in the area of the leaking pipe. The builder agreed that was the case. My husband asked if the pipe was gushing water and if the need to fix it couldn’t have waited till 10 when people were done getting ready.
The builder said that all those things were true, but that he needed to maintain the peace. My husband asked about the maintenance of our peace last night and the lack of it.
The builder said nothing.
My husband said that he would then deduct one day’s maintenance fee from the next months bill.
The builder said if he did, then all our rights would be revoked and then began walking away.
I had had enough.
I ran in front of him and blocked his way with my arms. He could not go past and the elevators were not working. He was trapped.
“Excuse me sir. My husband asked you questions in which you did not answer. Also, I do not like your tone when speaking to my husband. Now, you will change your tone and your attitude or you will learn just how vocal an American Woman can become.”
He began his excuses to me about corruption and politics and red tape.
“Sir, let me tell you what you SHOULD be worried about. You should be worried about how many International Newspapers I can contact within one hour to explain the corruption of APPLAUSE Builders. You should be worried about how quickly I can hail a taxi and go to the police and government offices to learn about the status of your licenses. You should be worried about a great many things, but worrying over your excuses is not one of them. Are you ready to speak to my husband in a more respectful manner?”
Apparently he was. He and Bear worked out the issue and got everyone’s water turned back on until 10am when they could continue the repairs on Mr. 10th Floor.
Bear and I also learned that Mr. 10th Floor’s leak wasn’t as bad as all that and only got worse due to his own usage of a pipe that he could have easily avoided for the weekend (having four other sources of water in his flat). We also learned that instead of moving his belongings to another room, he kept it stacked near the faulty pipe. And that he had spent the entire weekend calling and cursing anyone he could.
We also learned that Mr. 10th Floor had gone around to all the neighbors professing his innocence in the weekend debacle, that he had requested help on Friday when he moved in and was refused and ignored, that he had over an inch of water on his floor, that he was being blamed for damage he did not cause and that he had been accosted by the guards on Sunday during a midnight walk he took.
I had had Enough.
So Bear and I told everyone and anyone about what had happened that weekend. About the drunken rage. The broken guardhouse furniture. The tossed garbage. The elevator scene. Everything. We also told them what we had learned from the builder, the maintenance man and the building plumber.
It was even discussed in the next homeowners meeting a week later.
Mr. 10th Floor did not put in an appearance.
Mr. 10th Floor is rarely seen anymore.
Mr. 10th Floor only goes out late at night and quietly scuttles to the garden area to have a walk out of the sight of the building and guards.
Mr. 10th Floor has lost his maintenance, pool and gym rights for not paying his fees for the last two months.
We are all hoping that Mr. 10th Floor will be moving very soon.
And while I felt vindicated that I had been right in calling out Mr. 10th Floor’s lunacy. While I felt righteous when I had demanded the builder speak to my husband respectfully. While I felt powerful and in control. I also recognize one crucial flaw in all of that.
You are never 100% any of those things in India. There is always going to be someone more influential. Someone more powerful. Someone with more strings to pull or more clout to fling about. Someone more vindictive. Someone crazier. Someone unpredictable.
And that while the old me could get away 95% of the ‘in your face’ justification in the US, the new me had to realize that doing so in India wasn’t always going to be the wisest or safest course to take. I had to realize that I was in a foreign country with different laws of the land, different means of upholding those laws and a husband that I must not only protect but also live rightly for. I couldn’t be that single girl vigilante so much anymore. And trying to be one in India would be a 24/7 job right now. There is injustice everywhere. Towards people, towards animals, towards culture, religion and law. While one person can make a difference, it’s HOW they make a difference that counts.
It’s time to learn a new way of having had Enough.