‘How my father got the ultimate revenge on our annoying neighbour’

Oct 18, 2020
Knowing your neighbours isn't always a good thing, as Heather recalls. Source: Getty

Has anyone ever had to put up with annoying neighbours? My parents came to Australia with three young children in the early 1950s. They left a country that was on the brink of destruction.

We were living in what was then British India, where my father was serving in the British Police Force, when we were told to leave the country. The partition, where British India was divided in two and India and Pakistan were created, had occurred and it wasn’t safe for us to live there anymore. We got passage on a Danish Cargo ship The Marine Skou. My parents were so nervous we would cough as we all had gotten through a bad bout of Whooping Cough and you were not allowed on board if you showed any sign of illness.

We didn’t cough much to my Mother’s joy. We also passed something called the brown paper bag test. Believe it or not each person had a brown paper bag held near their face and if you were darker then the bag you were not allowed on the ship.

Landing in Freemantle we had no warm clothes but a charity shop helped with second-hand warm clothing. We then travelled to stay at my grandparents’ place at Bondi. My Father’s parents had come over earlier. We didn’t stay long as my grandmother didn’t like children and had left my Father and his brothers back in India many years ago at a Boarding School. She came to Australia where lived for many years. My Father and his eldest brother came out together as they got older. My Father married my Mother who had also been brought up in a boarding school when her father died Of TB. My Mother’s eldest sister had come to Australia and had bought property at Narraweena in North Sydney. She offered my parents a house and they paid her rent. All was okay but when my brother began work a letter came saying the rent was being increased. My Mother was so upset that her sister would do that. Next, another letter came saying we would all be evicted. My parents it seemed had no cash to move. My father’s brother worked at a housing development so we moved across Sydney.

Mum had always kept to herself. She was shy and didn’t like people talking about her ‘funny’ accent, as some would say. Her family came from India and over the years my parents would host family curry nights with all the trimmings. One of dad’s brothers lived in Manly and was told not to cook curries in his flat as it make the place stink.

One day we were all enjoying a family gathering when a man turned up at the front door. “I’m your neighbour,” he said. “Where are you from?” My Father filled him in and then every time we had family he would turn up, mostly tipsy.

He brought over a dish over with crumbed deep fried balls. He said that’s what Aussies enjoy. My father enjoyed them and ate so many. I heard my mother ask what type of meat they were and the neighbour replied they were “deep fried sheep’s balls”. The sound that came from my Father was like an elephant. He raced to the toilet.

The other weird thing the neighbour would persist in doing was spit into the palm of his hand and then rub it on my youngest sister’s head. He said it gave kids curly hair.

“Enough,” my father said. “I will teach him a lesson.” There is an Indian drink called pepper water, which is very spicy and not at all pleasant to those who gulp it down unprepared. Well next time the neighbour barged in my Father made him a mug of steaming hot pepper water. The neighbour gulped it down I’m sure I saw steam come out of his ears. He took of and never showed his face again.

His wife came over once and started yelling at my Mother saying she was a snob who never socialised and thought she was better than other people. She screamed “just because you had servants [in India] you’re no better”. My mother was a very shy person but her children didn’t let anyone walk all over her.

Oh well, there are annoying neighbours but as my Father would say, take it all with a grain of salt, the world keeps turning.

He was right.

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