I Find a Home
The days dragged by in a stupor. I went to work, and, apart from lunching and chatting with Ajay, worked the day through barely thinking of anything else. I had dinner in office and took the cab home. I went to bed early, sleeping around ten hours every night. Usually, I had trouble going to sleep when I was unhappy or excited: now, however, sleep came often and hard. I slept most of the time I was home. Even Miki and Mandakini were muted, and rarely squabbled.
One of my colleagues, Smriti, was leaving. This wasn’t unusual in itself: people came and went quite often at my workplace, and Smriti had been around for two years, which was considered long enough. Unlike most other people, Smriti wasn’t going to a rival firm, though: she was going abroad for studies. I had worked with her on my first project: she had been gracious and helpful, showing me the ropes and guiding me so that I learned quickly. We hadn’t worked together since, but we sometimes met for tea in the cafeteria. A bunch of us took her out for lunch on her last day.
She told us she was taking a day to pack, and her dad would come down from Mumbai and help her move. She would stay with her parents in Mumbai for two months before heading off to the US.
“Who do you live with here?” I asked her.
“Oh, I live alone. I have this small flat – kind of a studio apartment, really. It’s attached to the owner’s house, but there’s a separate entrance – actually, the stairs are outside, so you can walk straight up to the flat without seeing anyone.”
“That sounds lovely,” I said. I loved my house and I hadn’t been too keen on moving when Divya left. Besides, I’d paid a deposit. But the idea of living alone was tempting.
“Oh yes. It’s on the top floor right next to a large terrace, so it’s airy. The only thing is if someone from the owner’s family walks up to hang out clothes or to water the plants, and your door to the terrace is open, they can see right in… But if you keep that door shut you don’t have to see them. They have a different set of stairs, so my house is totally private.”
Smriti, I knew, was a loner like me. She was an intensely private person, and though all of us at the table had known and liked her for at least some months, none of us could say we were her friends. In my present desire for quiet and solitude, her praise of the house made it very tempting.
“Are you interested?” Ajay asked me. He knew that Divya was leaving and I was somewhat at a loss.
“Yes, indeed. That is, if... they haven’t found anyone yet to rent it to?”
“No, I don’t believe they have,” said Smriti. “Why don’t you come over tomorrow and see it? If you like it, you can talk to them right away.”
The next day was Saturday. I went over at eleven in the morning, and Smriti’s dad opened the door. Smriti, who had been bending over a box as I entered, stood upright and greeted me. I stayed with them for about an hour and helped them pack.
I loved the house. It was just one small room, a tiny alcove for a kitchen, and a small bathroom. It came furnished with one bed, a small cupboard, and a gas burner and cylinder. Sunlight streamed in through the one window that my blue-checked curtain would fit perfectly. It was in a quiet colony, only a couple of kilometres from the office. I could imagine staying in the flat alone, reading, talking to myself, taking a walk on the large terrace.
I knew I had found my new home.
The rent was reasonable. I went downstairs with Smriti to meet the landlady, and wrote her a cheque on the spot. The landlady asked for two months’ rent: one month’s rent as deposit and one month’s rent in advance for the next month. I did not haggle: this was more than reasonable. I was glad I had enough in my account to cover it.
I said I would move in in two weeks, which would be a week before Divya left. I would have to forfeit two weeks of rent at my flat, because I was supposed to give a month’s notice, but I wanted this house badly enough to not care.
I went home and spent the next two days dreaming about my new bachelor’s pad. Whenever my thoughts wandered to Raghav, I stopped myself and thought of my new home instead. After years of hostels and roommates, I would finally live alone. It felt like an exciting step towards adulthood.
Even though I had two weeks before I moved, I started on my packing: I took out things I wasn’t likely to need over the next couple of weeks – mostly flimsy tops and skirts that I couldn’t wear till next summer – and sorted them out. I went and begged a couple of cardboard boxes off the neighbourhood shopkeeper. I packed two boxes: everything except what I thought I would need the next two weeks.
I didn’t have a lot. The beds, the TV and the table it stood on, and the two chairs all belonged to the landlord. The landlord was actually the father of one of Divya’s friends. Divya had originally shared it with that friend, Anushka, but then Anushka moved away and had allowed Divya to go on renting the apartment, and Divya had found and installed me as her new roommate.
Divya came in at seven thirty on Monday morning, when I was all dressed for office and making myself tea. I offered her a cup and told her my news. She seemed glad for me.
“Don’t worry about the notice,” she said. “I’ll talk to Chopra Uncle. I’m sure he won’t bother.”
“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “That would be great.”
“So you’ll actually be moving out before me,” she observed. “I’ll help you pack.”
“Thanks,” I said again, feeling rather guilty that I hadn’t offered to help her pack.
“Don’t thank me, yaar,” said Divya in one of her infrequent generous moods. “What are friends for?”