There is an unwritten rule that when you stay in an upmarket neighbourhood you should have everything.
During the weekend I decided to bake. Without checking if I had everything I would need I went ahead to mix the ingredients. I only realised after, to my dismay, that I didn’t have enough sugar. All the convenient stores with my proximity had long been closed. On an impulse I took a cup and headed towards my neighbours’ door without rehearsing my story, just as I would do if I was at home and there was no sugar.
Right before I could tap on the neighbours’ door, I realised that I have never seen my neighbours. The constant sounds and the smell of cooking coming from their direction time to time were the only things that reminded me that there were people living right next to me. And now here I was, in need and the only people who could help me were the neighbours I had never spoken to. I went back into my space and really thought about it. Do fences really make good neighbours as in that poem?
Growing up, back at my village I always believed that my neighbours were related to me. We borrowed and lent to each other all the time. Until my father decided to put up a fence to prevent goats and cows from entering our garden, we might as well have been one big family. When I couldn’t get signal coverage for one channel on our TV, I would go into my neighbours’ house and watch TV from there. And they would do the same.
The neighbours could always tell what was missing next door too, because people are that close in those parts. Once during harvesting of mealies one neighbour of ours brought to my house a bucket of mealies because they could see that it was a bad year of harvest at my house. As a child I would ferry containers of traditional delicacies to the neighbours that my mother used to make. I tell you no tales dear reader.
People argue that in small knit communities especially in villages people don’t know how to mind their business. In cities people never ask for help, and you never know if you neighbour is in need until they are literally on the ground and ready to die.