I've been living in the same neighbourhood for the past 23 years now; so goes without saying that the neighbourhood mom-and-pop stores (those that still exist) are as familiar as my oldest pair of shoes. Or at least those that didn't succumb to the lure of higher rents from coffee/ doughnut/ frozen yoghurt chains, with the owners thereby going into self-exile and happily counting the money from the luxury of their plush new sofas, watching the same old shows on their brand new 50 inch 3D LED TVs.
Went to one such store with the significant other a couple of evenings ago, to make the exciting purchase of frozen peas and a couple of tetra packs of juice. The store owner, in true Indian tradition called Auntie, was at the counter, with her ready smile. What we do here is, whether someone is related to us or not (by blood or otherwise), or is merely a casual acquaintance, or is someone we just met on the bus, is happily bestowed the title of 'Auntie', or 'Uncle', or desi versions of the same, as the case may be. I guess I'd be tagged impolite (and worse), if I'm to call my Mum's friend 'Farida', and not 'Farida Auntie'. You guessed it - I'm not related to her; just that she and Mum are friends. Also, these tags are convenient - you're then not required to know said auntie/ uncle's name, be it first or last. The title is all-encompassing. Hmm. Convenient.
So Auntie smiled, we greeted each other, murmured about the dismal performance by the rain gods in Mumbai so far this year, and I started to tell her what all I needed to purchase. I was then asked, so do you still work with X Bank? Are you still with their branch at X area in South Bombay? (Or Mumbai, if you prefer.) Now that stunned me. Why, because this reference to my first ever job goes back to 2003, and really, I'm not sure how much of it I personally remember - so how on Earth did she?! I started to think that she knows more about my life than I myself do. Maybe the next time I wanna log in to my bank account online, I should ask her what my password is. I can never remember passwords, or the user IDs that go with them. I may remember one or the other, but never both in tandem. Or if I do, it's invariably the user ID for say, gmail, while the password is that for Facebook. Bah. But clearly, Auntie at the store has no such problems. When I picked my jaw off the floor, she told me she can recall phone numbers. Mobile phone numbers too, all ten horrifying digits of them. I'm embarrassed to say that if I didn't have my sister on speed dial, I'd never be able to talk to her - I don't know her number. In the days before mobile phones dropped into our laps - or glued themselves to our ears - I did remember land line numbers. But not anymore.
I'm happy these days if I remember by dinner what exactly I had at lunch, and don't really aspire to think beyond that, say, from two days ago. I'm relieved that I remember to pay my bills in time - at least, most of the time. The amount I'd've paid by way of late payment charges (plus tax, and tax on that tax) would take care of a family of four for a few months, I'm guesstimating. And so I set reminders on my phone. And my laptop. On which I hit 'dismiss'. And then I cough up the late payment charges. And so I walk in reverse.
Thank goodness my home isn't password protected, or requires a convoluted set of digits to gain access, else I'd be a regular fixture at the neighbour's.