The Unfriendly Neighbor
The Unfriendly Neighbor8 mins 19.1K 8 mins 19.1K
A year after her husband’s death, Divya decided to move out of her in-laws’ place and live independently. It was not that they wanted her to move out. They loved her presence around them and supported her through the toughest phase of her life. They had lost their only son and she had lost her beloved. The damage was equal on both sides. But, as the days passed, she started thinking of herself as a burden on Rushabh’s family. All of 30, Rushabh’s tragic death in a car accident had shattered her mind, body and soul. She had sent him forcefully to do her work even though he never wanted to. How she wished she hadn’t forced him on that dreaded day! Now that he was no more, she couldn’t help but blame herself for his loss.
A teacher by profession, Divya loved kids. She regretted not planning a family sooner with Rushabh. With no kids, the only thing that was left with her was the flat they had purchased together. They had planned on making it their dream home together and now it remained nothing but a distant dream. Still, she decided to shift in it and live with Rushabh’s memories for the rest of her life. She didn’t want to live with her parents who lived in a different city. Sooner or later, she would have to become independent and stand up on her own feet eventually.
Her in-laws’ helped her with shifting and other tasks and they continued to stay in touch with her. A day after moving in, Divya sat on a chair in the balcony, immersed in her thoughts. A cup of tea in her hand, her eyes wandered towards the society garden and fell on a male figure exercising. She couldn’t see his face but his physique, hairstyle and skin color seemed quite similar to Rushabh. For a minute or so, she felt that it was Rushabh himself. She continued staring at him till he turned around and his face was revealed. To her surprise, the man’s facial features as well were quite similar to Rushabh’s. She actually couldn’t believe her eyes. If Rushabh were to be here and stand next to this man, anyone would mistake them to be brothers. If only he was here……..
Divya went back into a state of trance and started remembering the happy days spent with her husband. She wasn’t even looking at the man anymore, but the man had seen her glaring at him. He raised his right hand and spoke on the top of his voice. “ Never seen a man before, Lady?”
The people in the garden started staring at her from below and Divya didn’t know how to react. She felt embarrassed and ran away from the balcony as fast as her legs could take her. Who the hell did this man think he was? She wasn’t even looking at him. She was just remembering her dead husband. But the damage had already been done.
The next day onwards, she spotted the same man almost everyday while going to work. Both of them chose to avoid the casual hi’s and bye’s or even smile at each other. The only thing they shared was cold glances, which they threw at each other whenever possible. The man’s name was Rohit Sareen who lived on the same floor as hers. He was cold and distant towards everyone almost all the time and rarely spoke a word. Whenever he opened his mouth, he invited more trouble for himself and all the members hated him even more.
Kids were scared of him and no one dared to go against him. This man certainly had some issues to deal with. Neither did he visit anyone nor anyone visited him. Stories floated around the society that he was a divorcee, a drug addict and was suffering from depression. People even suspected him of doing black magic. Nobody knew if these stories were actually true but his behavior depicted likewise. Nobody had ever seen him smile or talk nicely. Despite that, Divya felt bad for him. She never believed in those stories circulating around but felt that he was a man living a troubled life. No matter what his problems were, he deserved a right to live with dignity and change for the better. The fact that he was strikingly similar to Rushabh made her think about him even more. She felt that both Rohit and she were dealing with a similar set of problems and maybe she could help him overcome those. If only he permitted someone to.
The man was strange to the extent that he didn’t even keep a servant or maid at home. He did his own cooking and cleaning. And even if he did want to keep one, no one would want to go in and face his wrath. He had built a demon - like image of himself which he refused to shed for reasons best known to him. Divya’s curiosity about him increased more and more and she decided to find out what Mr. Rohit Sareen could actually be up to. Even if he was a serial killer, she had to know. It would be better dying after finding out the truth rather than living her entire life in suspense.
An opportunity came her way when the watchman accidentally left his electricity bill at her doorstep and her electricity bill at his. Instead of involving the watchman, she decided to confront the man himself. At around 8 in the evening, Divya rang his doorbell. She must have waited for around 3 minutes but there was no response. Maybe he isn’t at home. She thought to herself and turned to make a move only to hear the footsteps of someone approaching the door. She quickly fixed her posture and let out a smile as Rohit opened the door. He didn’t smile back but glanced at her from top to bottom, waiting for her to speak. His presence and his gaze were discomforting and she couldn’t think of the right words inspite of rehearsing a 100 times back at home.
He waited for a few seconds more and finally spoke up.
“What do you want, Lady?” His words were as cold as he was. The word ‘Lady’ somehow triggered Divya and she found the courage to speak without any hesitation.
“You know, I actually do have a name, Mr. Sareen. But let’s leave that topic for some other time. I am here just to take back my electricity bill and give you yours.” She handed him his bill and he had a good look at it, clarifying whether it was his or not. Once he was convinced, he let out a sigh and looked at her with regret in his eyes.
“I am sorry, Ma’am. Please come inside while I go get your bill.” Divya wondered whether to go in or not but finally entered his flat without stressing her brain further. Surprisingly, his flat was well furnished and spotless clean. It didn’t even look like a bachelor’s flat or the one without a maid. Her own flat was 10 times messier than his. Rohit went in one of the rooms and brought her bill within a few seconds.
“Here you go.” He handed the bill to her. “I am sorry for embarrassing you the other day. I promise it won’t happen again.” Divya let out a sly smile.
“Well, sometimes you can actually be nice if you try. Apology accepted but I don’t understand your attitude. We all face some or the other problems in life. Just because we are going through a tough time doesn’t mean that we should stop smiling or stop talking to people around us. At times, a simple conversation with a friend can make you feel better.”
Rohit frowned immediately, clearly not liking his privacy being invaded by Divya. “It would be better if you mind your own business, Lady.” Once again, the old Rohit Sareen was back. “I do not like people meddling in my personal life. What I do in the four walls of my own house or outside is none of your concern. Just because I apologized doesn’t mean I want to be your friend………”
Before he could say anything further, Divya interrupted him.
“I understand, Mr. Sareen. I assure you that you will never be disturbed by me in the future unless and until you want to. But if you ever need any help or someone to talk to, I’m just a doorbell away.”
She smiled at him even though he never returned it. His face looked stern yet confused by her words. She observed him eyeing her till she reached her door. Maybe he was thinking of her actual intentions of visiting him. Going by the way he had locked himself up in a shell, she never expected him to be pally. She had imagined a far worse scenario. But she was happy that she had at least tried. He was a human being just like her who needed a shoulder to cry on and a friend to talk to. Just because he was harsh towards her didn’t mean that she had to repeat his actions. Trying to lend him a helping hand felt like helping Rushabh all over again. Rushabh was irreplaceable for her. There could be no one like him. She had spent many memorable moments with him. But she had realized that no matter how hard she tried, there was no way he was going to return and she had to learn to live without him. And in that process, if she can return someone’s lost smile, it was like seeing Rushabh smile back at her in return. Worth giving a try!