Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Voices in My Head - 15

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?”


Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

The new place sounds very exciting !!!
Interesting days ahead ....

Sheetal said...

I love this chapter... :) ... Living alone... books.. perfect!

When's Raghav visiting her in the 'alone' house :P

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the first time I moved into my own one bedroom place for the first time, after years of hostel and roommates. That time was triggered by the roommate that I couldn't bear to live with any more, but looking back, it was quite a liberating time. Hopefully it'll be another phase of self discovery for Miki. :)

Amit said...

I second Her's thought...

When's Raghav visiting her in the 'alone' house :P

It would be interesting to see if there is a second round of cuddling and coochie cooing

Pallavi Sharma said...

I took over a friend's place in Bangalore for about 3-4 months while he was in the US. It was a studio apartment which sounds exactly like the one you described. And although my parents lived on the ground floor in the building, I had a ball living upstairs by myself for those few months. And I had my P1 visiting me often for movies and coochie-cooing ;-)

Unmana said...

All: Glad you liked the chapter.

CA: I think you'll find it interesting!

HER: Wait and watch!

Engineer: Yes, after living in hostels and with housemates for years, getting one's own place seems so liberating.

Amit: You'll see, won't you? :-)

Pallavi: Yeah, living on your own is awesome, and the first time you do it... almost wish I could go back and do it again, but then I've enjoyed my time alone in the last few months.

s said...

i love ur writing n style..ur blog made me stay back in d office n read after work :) the flow is jus awesome ..:)

Unmana said...

Sujitha: Thank you, I'm very flattered!

Pallavi Sharma said...

True about the lone time. Miss it so much. Sometimes I want to kick that very same P1 out of the house for a few days so that I can have it to myself. I tell him to go get naraaz and go to his maika ;-)

Unknown said...

Came across your blog through Labnol's listing of Best Indian Blogs. I have been following your blog since then and I have always looked forward for new postings, especially the series "Voices in My Head". The series "Voices in My Head" is so good that I wait for your weekend posting :)
Thank you so much for sharing this series.

Rajshekar B S

Unmana said...

Rajshekar: Thanks for the kind words. I hope you enjoy the rest of it too.

i-me-moi said...

The apartment and arrangement you described in this apartment seem so much like my own studio rental in Bangalore - wonder if you ever made it there. You'd see what I mean :) Ask Matrix to verify this. If I close my eyes - this is exactly how I'd describe it.

i-me-moi said...

It's the same - the cove kitchen, the cupboard, down to the last frikking blue checkered curtain. Did you come over to my place during Matrix's wedding?

Unmana said...

i-me-moi: No, I haven't visited you, I'm quite sure! (Not even totally sure who you are, but I'm guessing you're that friend I spent a lot of time with at that wedding.)

The blue curtain actually is mine - or are mine - first curtains I ever bought and I'm glad I still have them up.

i-me-moi said...

Oh that was silly of me but yea the same friend dee basically. You and I have lived in the same house in different cities :-) this is Beautifully spooky you realize? And awesome. All at once. Wow. More proof that we're all connected in a matrix. :-) this is an awesome project. Have to read it from the beginning now.

Unmana said...

i-me-moi: Oh, the curtains were mine - the house wasn't, really. It's the one I would like to have had, though. :-)

If you read, do let me know how you like it!