Top of the list in the How to Lose Friends and Drop Neighbours chapter of life is one word: Renovate. Take a look around your house, and if you decide that this thing needs to come down, that thing needs to go up, the flooring is crying out for change and everything needs to be done now, then prepare to lose your friend – the neighbour.
Constantly barking dogs, wrongly delivered mail, kids who trample all over your garden – any one of these or a combination of them is guaranteed to leave the friendship teetering on the edge, but there’s nothing like full-scale renovation to do the job efficiently and with finality.
My neighbour (and former friend) has just discovered this. It was all polite and friendly at first. He came over and explained that he was renovating and there might be some noise. Sure, no problem, I said innocently. You will hardly notice, he responded with equal innocence, and I imagined his workers walking around in soundless velvet shoes, using hammers that didn’t make a sound or machinery that couldn’t be heard beyond three feet. The metal sheets, I imagined, would be placed so gingerly that you would not hear them at all.
And then the sheet hit the fan. One moment there was peace and serenity and the next it felt like an army wearing metal boots was marching out of step on a tin bridge while shooting in the air. I wasn’t mildly annoyed – it was the full adult dose of anger that you are entitled to explode with just once or twice in a lifetime, sending everyone scurrying for cover.
It didn’t make the slightest difference. The hammerers hammered, the drillers drilled, the wall-breakers wall-broke, the floor removers floor-removed. And my friend, I was told, could not be contacted as he had been called away on a family or business emergency – I could choose which it was. His house has a new look, and so does our friendship, which has gone from seven or eight on the scale to minus something. We don’t visit each other any more, we ignore each other on the street. Is a new flooring pattern worth a friendship? Renovate or perish said the tag line on the company he had hired. For me, it has been renovate and perish; if you do one, be prepared for the other.
I considered retaliatory renovation. He took a week to redo everything. I wanted to take a fortnight just changing the curtains and paying workers to make construction sounds as loudly as they could. In the end I did nothing. The best revenge is living well. So I bought myself a fancy car.
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