1st of every month – the day when my heart would dance in anticipation.
Mom would start reimagining how she’d look with a blue saree she saw last week at the lad bazaar and the matching blouse that would do justice to that elegant saree.
There would be two happy souls and then, there would be two other people having greys and acidity of the worry they had accumulated.
First, my father, who would pray to his boss for not delaying or deducting a portion of his salary. A 10 percent deduction would remove the blue saree from mom’s list and every penny above would be a hit on my trip to the annual exhibition.
The second person’s worry would increase our problems exponentially. Every frown on his forehead meant a warning to us that we needed to vacate the 1 bedroom house we inhabited for the past 10 years. Fifth of every month would be the deadline for us to pay the rent or else, we’d have to accompany the stray dogs, the street beggars, if the landlord was to be believed.
Cut to 2018, I stay in a studio apartment whose landlord never calls or texts except on the 30th or 31st of every month, and that, to acknowledge the rent receipt.
He did visit once, when he visited his son at a nearby hostel and decided to drop down to ask, beta, sab theek hai na? (Child, is everything fine?)
And to know, how it feels to have a cup of tea in his own balcony.
Trust me, within those 5 mins of the tea-sipping session, we had both started drooling over Pune is just perfect, whether things went from “hello sir” to “see you soon, uncle”, and his apartment suddenly became my home. Soon, I had to locate my rent acknowledgement chats amid our WhatsApp conversations to remind myself if I had paid the last month’s rent or not.
The chats would now be a medium of discussion in helping us choose the new wall colours, which plant to have in the 6×6 balcony and the curtains which would suit the ambience the best.
That 31st I also got a call from my father saying, “Beta, tune jo paise bheje the wo ghar maalik ko de diye hain.” (The money you sent to us has been given to the landlord)
Yes, they still live in the same old 1 BHK where there is still no direct water connection to the toilet.
During childhood, I saw Pitaji (Dad) having an eagle’s eye on every nook and corner of the house, a small stain on the wall would bother him exactly how a fire in the big backyard would. To every irritating reaction of Mumma, he would reiterate- “Kisi aur ka ghar hai, apni zimmedari hai iska khyal rakhna.” (It’s someone else’s place, it’s our responsibility to take care of it)
If there was one thing that has flown through the genes of my father and eventually into me, is ‘you before me’; it’s not just an anagram of an Emilia Clark movie but something which I’ve acquired – putting others ahead of myself.
Tomorrow, as I walk into a 3 BHK bought from my hard earned money, it has suddenly started to feel like a breakup – a terrible breakup where you walk away from that cute desi girl you fell in love with and one day, walk far away, get hitched to a fine bride with a green card.
But I should be proud, no? I’d finally be walking into a space which I could call mine, the same way the studio apartment owner calls his.
That did not happen. I realised the depth and the intensity of relationship I’d gotten into with this studio apartment. I mean I knew it was not meant to be. I knew this was not here to stay. But it had my heart. It not only took care of my solace, but we exchanged new shades of love every day. A new flower pot, a small series of lights made up of old empty beer bottles lit up my world like nothing else.
Everything I did, every time I cried, every time I fell asleep while working on a bean bag, the walls around came closer to me, the space between us increased, I somehow saw this 450 square feet establishment become a maidaan (field) with infinite green grass all around. And there went my typical dialogue, ‘It wasn’t my house or home, it was where my world was!’ And of course, no one empathised with the unreasonable pain I was going through.
Today, my nature makes me question: “Would you be able to love and care for someone so deeply, so fondly, as much as you loved the other?”
Time will tell. Right now it’s a NO.
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