One of my friends recently moved to another city. When they finalised the house to live in, my first question was, ‘Is it an apartment too?’ And yes, it was. For those of us who have lived in apartments for a long time, there are several advantages associated with those. First and foremost is the safety aspect. In comparison to single houses – especially considering the news we read every day – apartments offer more security. Or, at least they give the impression they do.

Another factor is the proximity of friendly neighbours. They are right in our own building; if we need a glass of milk or a spoon of sugar, we can walk across to them in our house wear, without worrying about opening our gate or crossing the road or encountering wild beasts on our path.

Nonetheless, there are other kinds of people who know nothing about the art of living in an apartment, and who, unfortunately make up a significant part of our neighbourhood.

None of us are blameless when it comes to apartment ethics. However, there are some dwellers who test the patience of the rest of us, when it comes to garbage disposal, bursting midnight crackers, running up and down the stairs to give others a heart attack (and I am not talking of kids), etc.

When I moved into our current apartment, there were some people who lived right above us. We did not hear any sound from them, and they could have been termed ideal except when I found that one of them had the habit of standing on the balcony smoking and dropping the ashes directly down. The cigarette ash fell on the washed clothes I had left to dry on my balcony. To be fair to them, they stopped doing it the moment I let them know my problem. The people who succeeded them to that house have been ‘harmless’ so far.

Meanwhile in another part of the apartment, we heard complaints (both veiled and open) about used sanitary napkins being found blocking the drains. No amount of notices and warnings were enough to coax these tenants to properly dispose of their waste. The world became a better place when they moved out. One second floor lady has the habit of performing pooja in the morning. She would pour water from a bowl right across the balcony, not caring whether there are people walking below. The wind would hit the waterfall and direct it to the houses below, watering their plants and wetting their clothes and giving the people a free shower. Considering that it is water meant for the gods, and that she is an old lady, one can possibly forgive her.

But the first prize – a trophy, certificate and cash award – is reserved for another resident, who lives two floors above my house. One Sunday morning, I woke up hearing the sound of falling water that sounded much like heavy rain. Realising quickly that it wasn’t and assuming that some tap was broken for so much water to overflow, I rushed to the window to find my husband standing there, staring out in disbelief. When I looked outside, I was dumbfounded, too. For, flowing all over the clothes and plants on my balcony from somewhere above, was dirty water mixed with soap. Half of the clothes I had washed the previous night and put out to dry (so as not to miss the early morning sun) were now wet and sloppy. The security guard of the apartment was somewhere in view, looking up in helplessness and bewilderment.

A quick inquiry cleared things up. The residents of the house had decided that morning that it was time to wash their carpet. So what did they do? They threw it across the railings of the balcony and began to pour water and soap over it and to give it a good scrubbing. There were two houses below. Either the carpet-washers were too dumb to know that gravity has this stupid habit of pulling water down; or they did not care that the grime was flowing all over our houses. Clearly the latter, because when we brought the fact to their notice, we were told that ‘it will be over in just five more minutes.’

There is no point in talking to such people. We put our clothes back into the washing machine and gave it another round of wash and rinse. The next time we hung it out to dry (and since then, every time we hung clothes to dry), we prayed that there would be no more carpets to wash or curtains to clean in the floors above for a long time to come.

If they do not master the art of living in an apartment, we need to learn to live in spite of them.