The Pereras Next Door

They’re bad people. They prosper materially (apparently) and inflict agony on their neighbours. The neighbours accuse the Pereras of blinding them with their own envy and driving them to utter exhaustion. Exhaustion when they race and writhe to match the Pereras achievements (materially). When they fall by the wayside of life, mentally exhausted or cross the finish line in a casket or on a pyre.

The Pereras are not even aware of their crime, their neighbours are falling dead in spirit or in body and life goes on for them. Merrily. I’m glad they are not my neighbours. But the question is who is the criminal and where is the crime?

This is a story that simply spilt on to the vast canvas of my computer. It was begging to be told. Normally I would spend ages staring at a blank page with an empty title. But not this time. Once again I wonder if this a culturally peculiar phenomenon. Perhaps not. It’s a story that has tickled me endlessly and continue to do so, thank God for these neighbourly types. They are everywhere. They and their antics are a gold mine for an author.

Prestige and envy are twins on the same coin, I think. Those who crave status are smitten by envy. They have to be. Social standing of the right kind is great, but any craving for it, surely not. What is prestige, my definition is the seeking of adoration from others based on material gain and status. Wealth, power and so on. It involves a game of looking down and looking up. And the roles reverse eternally, every time they look down, they will be forced to look up, at someone who is way above them in wealth and prestige. So high that getting there will require multiple lives. This breaks them, mentally. 

But…but they don’t realise that the Pereras may be neck deep in debt, financial strife, perhaps not. Who knows, the Pereras may be sick or…or their ship sinking on marital rocks. But the neighbours don’t know that, they can see the dish antennae, the Porche on their driveway and the boat they bought last week. So they start their race, loans, weekend slavery with extra work, to bridge that endless gap, hopefully surpass it.

Thankfully, I only look “up,” with my heart, with my mind. Not because “up” follows any objective scientific direction. But because “up” for me means looking up at a vast intelligence and presence, a divinity that guards and governs the cosmos and all the tiny human insects in it. Not just up, everywhere.  And I feel peace when I do so. It is a mark of respect. I don’t feel belittled, because I can feel the same power and awesomeness coursing in me. Through all humans, without exception.

Here is a little story, all true. We were coming out of a function once, it was an early exit. This guy rushes out, a friend.

“Hey machang! (mate) my wife wants to have a quick chat with you guys.” We stop, the request was urgent, it must be something important. She comes out, a huge smile dissecting her dimpled face in half, looking relaxed, no apparent urgency.

“Hi, hi…hi! Long time no see.”

Too many Hi’s and so what? We just saw them inside, couldn’t speak to them though. So more like long time no talk. Definitely not a valid excuse for an ambush in the car park. I’m seething, inside, my wife holds her look with great composure. My kids are restless, they just want to go home and play.

We start walking towards our respective cars, more like a crawl on all fours. They stop near a spanking new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Hot off the dealership. The reason for the sudden burst of friendly activity was clear. But we maintain silence, not taking the bait. The seconds tick to an eternity. More mindless banter. And then…

“We bought it last week, lucky, it was the last one…”

“Oh wow! This is a fantastic model, you must take us for a spin sometime.”

I lie.

“Let’s go now.”

“Nooo! Not now, we gotta go.” It was perfect teamwork on our part.

We forgive them easily, the laughter back in the car was healthy.

Please another story, among thousands more. Another social affair, in a hall packed to the brim, during a typical Victorian summer, perhaps over forty degrees at least. The AC’s were on full blast, but it was hot, roasting hot. My kind of weather, I flourish in the oven. But I could see the crowd ready to swoon, itching to tear off their clothes, some actually didn’t have much on to throw away anyway, some were nodding off. Sleep was a defense. Others had their eyes tightly shut, obviously not asleep. Definitely day dreaming of golden sands and deliciously cool waves, palm fronds. A dull speech delivered in the driest tones made matters far worse than they should have been. And then there was this solitary girl, just back from school, sitting smack bang in the middle in full school uniform complete with thick jacket. The name and logo of her super expensive private school screaming away from the jacket. She was panting, sweating, ready to die, misery shone from her face, her parents were beaming.

So, this is ecstasy, for some. Ecstasy or agony? If they only knew, they wouldn’t look at the Pereras again. Never again. Even if they did it wouldn’t bother them. A single life, a short one raced away in torture. Self-made torture, the worst kind. But I love it, I need the material.

copyright @ 2024 Jude Perera