Last Sunday morning, my house owner knocked on my door and she requested me to come down at the courtyard of the building. It’s quite unusual, though.
By the way, I live in a rented apartment in Motithang, north of Thimphu City. It’s a six-storeyed building. There are 18 flats in the building and more than 100 people live in it.
At the courtyard, all the tenants have assembled. My house owner announced, “I am initiating this cleaning campaign to clean our surrounding, beautify the place we live. 30 minutes only. Let’s do it.”
A few of us picked up the garbage. Some tended the gardens. Others cut the grasses and broom the surrounding.
As we were doing this, our house owner reiterated, “Friends, I’m not forcing upon you to do this dirty work. But I just want to let you know that it’s your waste and only you be held responsible for it.”
She was right. Absolutely.
I’ve been living here for the past two years. And we never thought about this. We threw our waste out from our verandas and windows. Cigarette butts dropped in the courtyard, incessantly. Trash bags kept outside, all littered by dogs and birds. The staircase walls stained with doma droppings - filthy lime and red juice.
We, as a tenant, had this mentality, I must say, not so good one. More correctly, it’s an irresponsible attitude. That we don’t really take care of the place we live, or we hire. We disrespect our fellow-tenants. We despise our waste. We litter our surrounding. And always, we tend to think that there’s someone else to take care of it.
After the cleaning, to my surprise, our house owner invited all of us in her room. She treated us with tea and we engaged in a long conversation.
She told us, “It’s not about the tea. But more importantly, it’s about sitting together once a while and chit-chatting to know each other more.”
As we sipped on hot tea, she continued, genuinely concerned, “As we all live under a same roof, in the same building, it’s very important to know each other and give a helping hand to your neighbours in times of need.”
I will tell you this though. In the last two years, I stayed home alone, door closed. I really didn’t talk to anyone. Not only me; all other my fellow-tenants too. I didn’t know who my next door neighbors were. I never knew even when they were sick, ever needed my help. I never noticed even when the next door was burgled. It’s sad.
However, after this wonderful initiative by my house owner, I felt so hugely heartened. This has become a better place; not anymore cold, estranged. She has nitted all of her tenants together - with warmth and affection. More importantly, she made us realized what it meant to live as a responsible tenant, harmoniously.