That Inexpensive House
That Inexpensive House5 mins 19K 5 mins 19K
Ever since I moved to Powai, finding an accommodation had been the biggest challenge. I loved Mumbai in every essence - the humid weather that tempts you to stop at a sugarcane juice stall and slosh down a full glass at a single gulp, the rapid transportation and speed of the city, which can spark a sense of hurry for a might be meaningless reason in the most depressed of people, the infrastructure, ranging from chawls to mansions, intimidating enough to make a person feel lost.
But what I actually adore about this city is the abundance of muses. Every time I travel in a local, walk along marine drive or have a wada pav at Juhu, I get an inspiration. Just observing the rushing, laughing, sobbing and sleeping human bodies around you intermixed with the essence of a purpose this city embarks is enough to birth art in one's mind.
But nevertheless, getting on and off a local at the peak hour would still seem a child's play against finding a decent room on rent for a bachelor woman with a sorry budget state in Powai.
I could not afford a broker. So, hopping between various sites and ads on the internet was my only option. There was one such surfing session when I ran into this particular advertisement where one female roommate was required in a 2 BHK furnished flat at an affordable to the point of being cheap rent and deposit amount. Six girls were already living there but since one was leaving the city, there was a vacancy.
At first I was skeptical about it, because getting a flat at this rent was a dream too beautiful to be real, fishy to be precise. But having no other options in hand, I decided to give it a try.
I connected with the advertisement owner, who was a girl already living there and decided that Sunday afternoon would be a nice time to check the place out. After reaching the place, I found out that it was far better than my expectations. The atmosphere of the house was nothing like a rented apartment but was rather homely.
Sofas and television sets were adorned with hand-knitted covers. There were paintings that no one who wished to live there just for a while would buy to decorate the walls. There was a kitchen with a handsome number of utensils as if someone had just finished cooking for their family.
All this threw me back to the days when all of this was so normal that we did not pay attention to the details. I almost expected my mother's humming intermixed with the sound of chillies touching the base of an oil pan emerging from the kitchen.
"Is all of this yours?" I asked the ad-owner, Namita, now my flat-mate, because who in their right mind would say no to this place?
"No. Just bed sheets are ours, rest everything is the owner's," she informed.
"Oh! And I heard that bachelors are not allowed in this society. Then how come you were able to rent a house here?" I asked.
"We have been living for a quite a while, so even after they changed the rules, the owner let us stay."
I started finding this owner more and more intriguing and expressed my desire to meet her.
"She doesn't visit often. Just sometimes on weekdays."
I was disappointed but elated at the same time at finally finding a house that I actually wanted to spend my days in.
It was one Wednesday that I was on leave after quite a few days of my stay here that I heard the doorknob turn. As all my flatmates were expected to be in office and only the owner had the key apart from us, I knew it was her. She was a thin, small and wrinkled woman. Her eyes drooped as an indication of many heavy years she had witnessed and they now demanded rest. However, the sadness in her eyes completely contradicted the surprised, gentle and warm smile that she gave me.
"Not in office today?" she asked in a wavering voice.
"No, I wasn't feeling well."
"How would you? Living alone without any one to take care of you," she said and smiled again.
Her eyes started scanning the whole house like a poet reciting her favourite poetry; something which she remembers word to word but still stops and savours each and every letter as if it were new.
"I have two daughters as well," she said, grazing her hand along the tablecloth, lovingly as if it was alive, and continued, “I used to live here with them. Now both of them are abroad.”
Suddenly her eyes stopped, startled at the sight of the sofa.
"Do not stick them to the walls," she said and dragged it towards herself.
"Lines get imprinted on the walls and also the paint comes off," she explained.
I at once went back to the drawing room back in my home with a Popsicle in one hand; my summer cotton frock already ruined by the sugary liquid that was also around my mouth.
"Do not touch the covers or you'll leave stains," my mother was yelling as I was running around the room, giggling.
Coming back, suddenly I realized that I was smiling and the lady wasn't looking at me, as if she herself went back some years as well, yelling at her daughter who maybe had a Popsicle too?
Aware of my presence now, she smiled again, her eyes still narrating a million tales that hung on those walls and were spread on this table. Leaving her alone to get a moment with her past, I retreated back to my room.
After a while there was a soft knock on my door. I opened and it was her with a tray.
"Here, have some soup you will feel better. Nowdays, children grow up so fast. Living without your parents at this age still seems unhealthy to me," she sighed.
"But I am an old lady, times have changed and so have the necessities," she said and for the first time, she laughed.
We sat there together for a while, chatting while I gobbled down my soup. After listening to her stories, it hit that to me that house might be inexpensive but to her it was priceless.
It was only after she left that I picked up my phone and dialed a number I hadn't dialled in the past two years since the demise of my mother.
Totally anticipating the astonishment from the other side, I spoke into the phone and said, "Hi, Papa."