There was a time in my life when I only met the same kind of people, who dressed in only branded or designer clothing, whose faces were immaculately made up from morning to night, who had suspiciously black hair and fusica red or pink lips, who drank the same kind of liquor,indulged in the same kind of small talk and bitching. All trapped in the meaningless quest for money,creature comforts and hankering for social respectability. It felt like we fritted away the best years of our lives in banalities.
One fine day I was done with it all. I just woke up one morning and decided I dint want to be that way any more. I wanted the fragrance of flowers back in my life; to walk again with the aroma of the parched earth when the first drops of rain fell on it. I dreamed about leaving to tibet and living in the misty white snow caped mountain slopes and never return to homeland again.
That was also the time when I had moved into 4d. A spacious, hollow 3 bhk near a beatiful park which we could stroll around in the evenings. Sometimes I felt the park was more beautiful than the apartment; it was filled with small trees that had branches willowed like umbrellas and the leaves almost touched the ground. Birds always nested and chirped in them throughout the day. The sand was white and soft and the grass always dewey. There was always a bustle in the evenings, when people came to walk or families came with children to play and mainly when dance and music recitals were held on the stage in the centre on weelends. Sometimes on my way back from work, I used to sit there for sometime to see kadhakali or mohiniyattom or listen to shyams beautiful songs from the 80’s.
Vegetable vendors still used petreomax lights near the park then and vegetables and fruits gleamed under their yellow/white light after it was dark. Then there was Swamys snack shop which was always crowded. Swamy was an old man who was more than 6ft tall, who always wore a long white kurta and an equaly long white beard and came driving his posh yellow beatle every evening to sell vadas and bhajjis which he himself made freshly in a huge black kadai. While cooking he wore an apron around his kurta and rolled up his sleeves. His snacks were famous all around that they were sold as soon as they were seeped out of the oil. Sometimes his wife who always wore zaried silk sarees and wore her hair in a bun at the nape of her neck and always had a jasmine garland around them also accompanied him and she slipped into the role of the accountant. If you still pass that way after 4 pm in the evening you get the aroma of grond lentils and vegetables getting fried in hot oil. Believe me it does make me hungry even thinking about it!
Now a 3bhk is too large and too empty for a woman living alone, which I realised a little later.But it was the first living space that was all mine if I dint count the 2 room + kitchen portion of a house I had shared with Ashpana while we were in college. But this was all mine. And it was bare. Even after I bought a huge new black leather sofa for the living room and picked up my moms old spare dining table for the dining room the hall still looked empty. I stuffed the massive wooden shelves that ran on one side of the wall with my books and it filled up the whole space warmly. I lay carpets i had bought on a sale from a jaipuri indian fair where i had bargained with the vendor in my broken hindi adding three ‘bhaiyya’s to each sentence hoping he would note it and give me some more additional discount!
I had three bedooms and only two cots and the 3rd room was hollow and always dark. I hung quirky curtains that i had ordered from a chineese website a friend recomended and bought some new bedlamps and paper lamps from fab india. I also bought a lot of retro cushions from India circus and it went well with the curtains and the lamps. My kitchen was long and blue and once I started living alone I hardly cooked. Mostly i cooked only when I had friends or relatives over. At other times I lived from the office canteen or on one meal a day at home at night and all other times I lived on tropicanas or fruits. My maid loved me because there was very little to be done in my house. My house always smelled of sandalwood and apple cider and the big brown tiles always gleamed on the floor.
My neighbours were nice people, never too inquisitive but always very polite. Apart from the middle aged tenant who lived opposite who used to walk up and down in the corridor early every morning as part of his excercise which irritated me because it meant I could not open the door and pick up my paper and milk in my shorts and sunglasses (which I wear religiously every morning as soon as i woke up because I hate the harsh sunlight in my eyes before I am really awake; which is only after my bed coffee!) , everything else was good. Being on my own was a revelation. There were many school kids on the block and a cheerful ‘auntie’ living alone meant they could come to my house anytime and hang around, play something or watch tv which i dint mind at all.
But the only real friends I had in my apartment was an old catholic couple who lived in the ground floor. The husband was an ex colonel in the miltary who was bound in a wheel chair and his energetic wife who I felt was a atomic bold of positive energy and good humour. I was always invited to tea and on some evenings when I was not working I used to visit them with something I bought from K.R and used to listen to their stories from the past. Most of their stories were amusing, the vast lands thay have seen, the relatives they have, the sons who call them every week from abroad and the smartness of their grandchildren.Sometimes they held hands when they spoke about death, about the concerns of leaving one alone and it used to rinse my eyes and I immediately felt lonely and certain that I was incapable of filling another persons void so deeply or ever having a hand to hold like that when I was past 60.
Nights were far more beautiful than days. From my balcony I could see the dome of a newly built church not far away and it was a time when some festival was in full swing. Night after nights I saw the sky light up in a million brillaint colours as the fire crackers burst as I smoked my thin orange flavoured cigarettes in a row leaning over the grilled parapet of the balcony. Nights like that always made me pensive, and I would miss the warmth of my mothers bed at home or the smell of my aunts kitchen. And the emptyness such nights bought with them would make me want to go back to being a child again!
Life changed and a year later I moved out from the city and moved out from my apartment too but I love my first house dearly like how you would always cherish your first love.