THE LANDLADY20 mins 1.9K 20 mins 1.9K
When I was around 36, I was transferred to Chandigarh as a Deputy Manager of a fairly good Marketing company. I was looking after the Customer Support department. I was a bachelor and was searching for a small, decent, furnished accommodation in this new location.
The property agent took me around on the first Sunday after I joined Chandigarh office, to show me some flats. But none of them were to my liking. The ones that I liked, were way beyond my budget. Finally while showing me the last flat of the day, he said that he would not be able to be there with me, as he had a family function to attend. He said he will just introduce me to the landlady and take his leave. But he expressed his doubts whether I would meet with any success, as this old lady seemed to very choosy and herself rejects all prospective tenants.
But seeing the flat I was very impressed. It was the first floor of a beautiful bungalow. The Landlady lived on the ground floor. The bungalow had a beautiful lawn at the back. The first floor flat on offer had a balcony overlooking this lush green lawn below. Also a great balcony on the front of this flat overlooking a sprawling joggers park on the other side of the narrow road. The rooms were quite good, with decent furniture and all necessary equipments provided for.
The lady showed me around the flat and was pleased at the appreciation I showed of her house. Then we sat down to negotiate terms and she had somewhat of an interview session with me. She asked in details about my job; about my family background in Kolkata; whether I'm married ; have kids ; or having any plans of marriage in the near future; my hobbies; my friends circle; my party habits and socializing nature; my food habits and similar related questions. I could guess that it would be very difficult for any tenant to satisfy her in all these questions and end up getting the flat on rent.
I answered truthfully to all her questions without thinking of the consequences. I told her that my parents have now stopped insisting and I did not have any plans of marriage. I told her that I'm quite an introvert, so I prefer solitude than partying with friends. My hobbies included good books; good music and watching films on TV. I wasn't a great foodie but loved quality food rather than quantity.
As my answers ended, I could feel that the lady relaxed a little. Was there a hint of a smile? She called for her maid and asked to serve tea for both of us. Then she looked at me and said, "I would like to tell you Sumit...I hope you don't mind me calling by your name, you are much younger to me...I am actually very choosy about whom I give this flat in rent to. That is why it's still vacant for more than a year, since my nephew left for Canada with his family. You see, I do not like to rent out to a family, for two reasons. One is that there will be kids, who will be running around all over the place and in my lawn and destroy my plants and flowers and especially hampering my peace. Secondly, a family means their relations and friends coming in; birthday and anniversary parties... Lots of people... Noise... Disturbance...I hate all that. You know what I liked best about you? The fact that you are an introvert. That you like solitude and not parties with friends. I'm exactly like that. I hate parties and mixing with lot of people. I'm an introvert to the core. I love to live my life by myself or with some extremely selected few with whom I have a resonance. I think after all these months, today I have found the right person whom I can take into my house. Now you tell me when do you want to move in ?"
This was so unexpected... It seemed that I had passed the test and that too with distinction. But the main hurdle still remained. The rental amount was still not informed to me till then. I knew it would definitely be beyond my reach. I hesitated and then said, "Thank you so much madam for accepting me, but I do not yet know the rental for such a beautiful accommodation. Actually this will not be company paid, but on my own expenses. I would like to know whether I can afford this."
The lady looked at me with a gentle smile. "My dear youngman, I have a lot of money in the Bank and nobody to eat except myself. I am not after money...I want peace and just somebody to stay in the house with whom I can have two words with. You tell me your budget and I'll tell you whether it is acceptable to me or not."
I garnered some courage and mentioned what I had estimated as my rental budget. The lady accepted without any negotiation. It was as if I had won the lottery. She just said that, "You just give me the monthly rent in advance. I do not need any other security amount. You will just pay the month's rent by the 7th of every month. I have an agreement drawn up, nothing very binding for you..... You just sign that... That's all. Wait, I'll get the papers."
This was too good to be true. The agreement was otherwise simple excepting that it had those clauses of damages to property and lawn and no parties and similar other points as she mentioned just now. Those were not binding on me at all. So I signed without hesitation. I told her that I am not carrying cash right then and I'll bring it the time I move in. She told me that I could move in that very day if I wanted to. Since it was a Sunday and since I had already had the hired car with me, I thought it would suit me fine. It was around 5 pm then. I went back to my guesthouse, packed my bags and withdrew money from the ATM. I was back before 6 pm. I just had two big suitcases, which the driver helped me to get on the first floor flat. I released the car.
I handed over the cash to the lady. Also photocopies of my photo ID proof and my company's transfer letter copy, which she had asked for. She said that she could help me unpack and keep my things in place in the cabinets. I was very thankful as I knew that a lady could do this much better than me
The bedroom had big wall cabinets fitted on one side. The lady was neatly keeping my shirts and pants and other clothings separately in different shelves and compartments. She showed me that there's a set of blankets and bedsheets and bedcovers on the top shelf of one of the wall cabinets. Actually I was not thinking of using the top shelves at all. The top shelves were at a little extra height, which with my 5 feet 3 inches figure, would be difficult to operate. In fact I could not even see the contents inside the top compartments, as even the top of my head was quite 2-3 inches below the top shelf level. For the lady it was not a problem at all, she was easily around 5 feet 10 or 11 inches tall, as it seemed to me, even with a thin rubber slipper on. I said, "Madam if you don't mind, can you please keep the bed sheets, covers and blanket on a lower shelf. It will be difficult for me to reach them there. As it is, I can't even see what's inside the top shelves."
The lady looked at my predicament and laughed, "Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realise this...you can't even see what's inside the top shelves... Ok, come here Sumit."
I was standing near the dressing table arranging my toiletries. I didn't know why she was calling me, but I went to her. When I stood in front of her, she bent down, put two hands behind my thighs and stood up. Oh wow ! I was suddenly up in the air, my body moved up as she stood up with me in her arms. My head was now above her head level. She was holding me tightly to her body, my legs dangling about a foot over the ground. She looked up at me and said, "Now look inside the shelf and see for yourself what is there inside." I saw a stack of bedsheets and bed covers and a nice looking big blanket inside.
I said, "Madam, what are you doing ? Put me down.."
She was laughing from the time she had picked me up. She said, "Wait let me see how you look up here.." She walked over to the dressing table with me hanging on her body in front of her. She stood there sideways, so that we both could look in the mirror. She was still laughing, "I can't walk with your legs dangling... Wrap your legs around my waist... And put your arms around my neck, it will be easier for you to keep your hands... Yes that's better....Now, look at the mirror... see how small you look up in my arms."
"Madam what are you doing? I'm a grown up man of 36, you'll get hurt... Please put me down." I repeated.
She didn't reply, but went on.."Oh ! You are so light, I can carry you like this all day. So what if you are a grown up man of 36 and I'm an old woman of 51, I'm so much bigger and taller than you in size. Tell me what is your height and weight ?"
I meekly said, "5 feet 3 inches and 64 kgs".
She burst out laughing, "And I'm 5 feet 11 inches and 87 kgs. So I'm, kitna hua, 8 inches taller and 23 kgs heavier than you. And also 15 years older. You are saying I'll get hurt lifting you ? Come, let us see how long I can keep you in my arms." She started walking with me out of the room.
"Madam, where are you taking me." I protested.
She laughed, "Haha... Look at my baby crying... Don't worry I'm just taking a walk in your flat. Let me show you properly, what all are there in every room, now that you will live here."
She carried me to the kitchen. "See all the cabinets here have all the utensils you will require. The gas cylinder is full, so you needn't worry for now. The refrigerator is cleaned, you can start using this, so also the microwave oven. Do you know how to cook?"
I said, "No, I can order food from restaurants for home delivery."
She said, "What nonsense ! You can't eat outside food everyday.. It will spoil your health. I'll tell you what... Since you don't have any problems in food, I'll ask my maid to cook a little extra each time she cooks for me. I'll take care of your breakfast, lunch and dinner .. you don't have to worry from now on."
I said, "That'll be very good. In fact I was looking for a Paying Guest accommodation only. In that case you tell me how much extra I'll have to pay."
She said, "We'll work it out. How much will you eat, you are so small and light. Stop talking about money always. Now come, have you seen the operation of the geyser in the bathroom?" She carried me in her arms to the bathroom. It was as if I didn't weigh anything at all. I was helpless in her control. She was walking and talking without losing any breath. "See the bathroom switches are all outside, even the geyser switch. Now look at this bathroom mirror, this was a favourite of my nephew's wife. Look in the mirror, see how cute you look in my lap...like a small child."
I said, "Madam, you are so strong. I am amazed how you, a 51 year old woman are carrying me, a 36 year old grown-up man so effortlessly. How can you do this ?"
She gave me a big smile and took me out of the bathroom and kept walking towards the dining hall. "Firstly I'm a big, tall Punjabi woman and most importantly I work out everyday. I'll take you to my place and show you my personal gym. I have only a few equipment, but that's enough to keep me fit and in shape. From now on, you can use my gym also. I'll make you fit too. At this age, you have already started developing a small paunch."
She was walking slowly around the dining hall .. now suddenly took a turn towards the balcony door. I gave out a short gasp, "Where are you going Madam ?... Not out on the balcony please... People will see us."
She stopped short, "Sorry, I forgot that I was carrying you." And started laughing again.
I said, "Enough Madam, you please let me down now."
She said, "Why ? You are embarrassed that an old woman is carrying you and you are so helplessly weak in my hands that you can't even get down."
I said, "It's not a question of I can't get down."
She stopped walking, "Oh ! You mean if you tried you could free yourself and get down. Ok, let's see, you try to get down from my lap. But if you can't, I'll let you free, only when I feel like."
Saying this, she just tightened her grip a little. I tried hard to push her on her shoulders, so that her hold on my back breaks. But she was holding my back in a vice like grip. I was not able to loosen her hold any bit. She started laughing and walking again with me. I kept on struggling as she walked with me to the bedroom. She came and stood before the mirror. I was so engrossed in fighting her, I didn't realise she was standing there, holding me up on her breasts and looking at my struggles in the mirror and laughing away. Suddenly my eyes fell on the mirror and I saw myself struggling to free myself with all my might, hanging high up on the breasts of an old woman, who was laughing like mad. I stopped struggling. There was no point..she was way too strong for me.
She said, "Kya hua ? Aur ladney ka dum nahi hai ? What happened ? Don't have any more energy to fight ? Yeh buddhi ki godi sey utar nahi paya ? Couldn't get off from the arms of this old woman ?"
I smiled, "No this old woman is too strong for me...I surrender."
She hugged me tightly... She put one big palm of hers and pressed on the back of my head so that my face got buried inside her thick neck. She bent her face forward, so all her hair fell on my face and covered it. She said, "Thank you Sumit for coming into my life. From today I'm your local guardian. I've got a toy for myself. You are my responsibility from now on. In this new city, I'll look after you, I'll protect you in every way. You will live here not as a tenant, but as my family member. You don't have to pay any rent. I'll return you your money. Neither will you pay me for your food. You will eat what I eat."
I was now on eye level with her, perched on her stomach, held tightly on her breasts, as she gently rocked me to and fro, like a baby in his mother's arms. I looked at her straight into her eyes and said, "But why Madam? You be my local guardian, I'll be very happy for that. But why won't you take rent from me ?"
She said, "From now on don't call me Madam. My name is Ritu Arora, you call me Ritu only."
I said, "How can I call you by your name ? You are so much older than me by 15 years....maybe not Aunty, but I'll call you Ritu didi."
She said, "No, I cannot be your aunty nor your sister. I'll tell you the reasons later... I'll tell you my life story.... I know I can share all my words with you... But for now this is my only request to you... just call me Ritu."
Her face looked so sad and appealing... her eyes were swelling up with tears... I didn't know what to say. I heard myself saying, "Ok Ritu, if that's what you want. "
Her face beamed with a glowing smile...it was an odd sight... Her face was smiling but her eyes were filled with tears. She pressed my face again inside her neck as if to not let me see her cry. She walked slowly all around the flat, with her one big palm pressing my face inside her neck....my arms wound around her shoulders...my legs wrapped around her waist... And my body floating in the air, held in her strong arms, about four feet above the ground.
After some time she abruptly put me down. She didn't look at me, just started for the door. While going she said, "I'll just come after giving dinner instructions to my maid. You finish storing your clothes."
She came after about half an hour. I had finished storing my stuff and was standing on the front balcony, enjoying the fresh evening breeze coming from the park. I was reflecting on the chain of events from the evening...A whole lot of unexpected happenings within a few hours time.
I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. Ritu had come and stood beside me. I turned to look at her. Since she was standing so close to me, I had to look high up to meet her eyes. I smiled and said, "Beautiful balcony you have".
She smiled back and said, "Come inside, I need to talk to you."
The drawing room was just beside the balcony. She went and sat on one of the large single seater sofa. I was about to sit on the other one, when I saw that she was beckoning me to sit on her lap. She took me on her lap sideways, cradling me in her arms. My legs went over one handle of the sofa, my back was towards the other handle, but resting on her big body. She pressed my head on her shoulders, her hands behind my back. With the other hand she pulled my legs up, so that I was actually lying on her big lap, looking up at her face sideways. She smiled and said, "I am really glad that you don't have any inhibition being lifted and carried by a woman bigger than you. I had thought that you would be an acceptable tenant. But you actually turned out to be a very dear friend. This is much more that what I had expected to get.
You see, I think you might be having some questions regarding my behavior towards you. I will now tell you in short, so that your doubts are cleared. As you continue living here, you will come to know the details in different instalments.
You see, I inherited a lot of property from my parents. I was their only child. We are from Amritsar and had a lot of landed property there. After my parents' expiry, I had sold off everything and invested some money and kept some in the Bank for my livelihood.
I am a widow. My husband died 16 years back, when I was only 35. We had married late at the age of 30 years. We both were of the same age... childhood friends. We grew up together in Amritsar, went to school together and then we got separated.
Their family had gone away and came and settled in Chandigarh. His father made this bungalow. He had a good business in motor parts and made a lot of money. He had three sons. The two elder ones went abroad and settled in Canada, permanently. They never came back. My father in law distributed his landed property of Amritsar to his two elder sons, who sold them off and took the money with them. My husband got this bungalow and his father's business.
Coming back to our story....after school, we met again when we were 29. All these years we had not been in touch. Actually just before we had separated, we had had a fight and we were not talking for some days, as it happens with school friends. But after we separated, I started missing him and then I realised that I loved him. Even though my parents insisted, I did not marry. I am this tall... along with that I started becoming fat. In school, we were of the same height. But I was always on the bulkier side... he was rather thin.
He had come to attend an old friend's wedding in Amritsar. There we saw each other after 14 long years. When we met again at the age of 29, my weight was 105 kgs and my height as you know 5 feet 11 inches. And he was just 70 kgs and 5 feet 8 inches. When we first met, I was so happy, I just hugged him and he was up in my arms like the time I picked you up to show the top shelf. I put him down immediately. I didn't know that as we grew in age after school, I had outgrown him by 3 inches. Whatever it was, ours was a torrid love affair for a year. Our size difference didn't matter to either of us. We were married within a year and I came to this house. The next 5 years went off like a breeze. We didn't have any children. We went to a lot of doctors, but nothing happened. It didn't matter for me. He was my husband and baby, both. I used to carry him around whenever we were alone. He was so light compared to me. He also loved to be in my arms and lap. Whenever he was tired or had a bad day at work, I used to sit with him like this cradled on my lap or carried him like a baby. He used to sometimes fall asleep on my lap. Those days were so romantic for us. But God had other plans. He had a major illness and he went away.
I lived on, taking care of his parents. In course of time, my own parents and his parents too passed away. For the last 5 years I am living alone in this house. A distant nephew from my husband's side had a job here in Chandigarh. So he used to live in this house for a few years with his wife. Then he also managed a job in Canada and left about a year back.
So this is my story.
Now you know, why I was crying when I was carrying you on my breasts. It was sweet old memories.. I was re-living those moments I had, when I used to carry my husband like that.
I am not sure what relation I have or will have with you, but definitely I cannot be your aunty or sister. That is why I asked you to call me by my name only. I think you are Godsend to me after all these years to fill my void in my life.
My only prayer to you is, please do not misunderstand me ever, if I act or behave in a way which you might not like. You let me know what you don't like...I'll not do that again, but please please never leave me and go." She had her hands folded in front of me and her eyes filled up with tears.
It was such an odd situation for me. This big woman was holding me on her lap like a small child. She was 15 years older to me. But she says that she is finding her husband in me. I didn't know what to do. Although she is almost an old woman of 51, she was so strong, she had literally captured me and carried me around the whole flat in her arms like a baby. I couldn't free myself from her hands with all my strength. I being a grown up man of 36 and 15 years younger than this old woman was totally helpless in her physical control, when she forcibly lifted and carried me around at her own will. And now she is folding her hands with me sitting on her lap and requesting me not to leave her. She says I remind her of her husband, but she's physically carrying me like her baby. I didn't know what relation she expected from me ?
But I couldn't bear to see this big woman cry. Sitting on her lap I wiped her tears with my fingers. I took her big palms in mine, and said, "Don't worry Ritu, I'm not going to leave you as long as my job keeps me in Chandigarh."
She didn't say anything, just held my face with both her hands and filled my entire face with kisses.
I knew my life in Chandigarh was going to be different....in what way ...only time will tell....