The lights went off. Maybe the power cut was designed to protect me from spooking myself out completely. I was watching Star Movies. How Michael Myers went on a rampage on Halloween night. And I realised I could have been him. But when the screams were just beginning to surround me, the lights went off. And stayed off. This is rare in Bangalore and so when it does happen, you can feel the spotlight on your neck and wish you could raise your hackles and bark. “Ok.. so I am supposed to acknowledge the special occasion and make this momentous, right?” Yes I realise it’s my last day here in this house, all alone. Tomorrow, Mom flies in. And then soon, the hunt for the new tenant begins. My house, with the dog, the gate, the hand pump and the trees, to say nothing of the terrace – blue stains on white shirts gently swaying in the breeze as you blame it on the small bucket, the red wicker mat on which you squat and hum along with mosquitoes and laugh with Woody Allen and old friends, Happy Birthday songs whispered in candlelight with hushed giggles and precariously balanced chocolate cakes, New Year’s eve “I think I love you”s that are proposed tentatively and analysed with confidence and realising that the door to 1999 is 5000 miles away. Memories of a friend talking excitedly about her marriage. Not knowing whether to envy her. Letting the smile reach your eyes before the tears can. Taking your laptop with you – sipping on grape juice and munching on chicken nuggets after carefully selecting a non-controversial playlist of songs. Erecting boundaries and yet, longing to break through them as you fall. The terrace. The illusion of being high.
I don’t want to make this about the whole house. The temple smelled of forgiveness. The bathroom smelled refreshing. The kitchen smelled of shortcuts. Meri “pehli naukri” waali Maggi. And a list of junk food that was almost out to prove a point. The lizard that lived in with me, though resilient, was intolerant of the tales I cannot shed. And spiders were not allowed.
The curtains were yellow. The walls were pink. But it was my house. My space. My canvas. My interpretation. My shelves. My books and CDs. My den. My mess. My coordinates. I ran away from it. I cribbed about it. I groaned when the maid prodded me through the window and made me let her in at the crack of dawn (yeah ok, 8am.) I always thought she smiled enough for both of us and made my peace by tuning into a local channel. So this is what the legendary Raj Kumar’s youngest son Puneeth looks like? Ninnindale ninnindale kanasondu shuruvaagide.. is it? Yeah, heard it on the radio about a zillion times.
No newspapers. But a sip of herbal tea to go with the gossip. Wondering whether I should make it my caller tune on the way to office. And then a hurried note to myself – “This, too, shall pass”.
I sat on the staircase leading up to the first floor. I could hear the thunder. Closed my eyes to let the rain in. The house hadn’t let me down in quite some time now.
First morning flights and cabs that honked outside. Waking up at 4am when the fireworks go off on Diwali. Waking up to Carnatic music. Waking up to an alarm clock. Waking up to phone calls. Good morning. I’m sorry, did I wake you up? Questions from my boss. Quotes from his boss. Days when you take a leave. When you want to. When you have to. When you go on a tour and come back to your home and fall in love with it all over again. Home deliveries. Cable bills. Welcome guests. Unwelcome guests. Opening the door to charity. Opening the door out of curiosity. Bottles of red wine that arrived along with midnight messengers as well planned but hastily executed birthday surprises. You gulped it down. Tick it off your list and forget about the purple stains on the yellow bed sheet. Let your thoughts linger on that. No. Don’t. And don’t beat yourself blue if you can’t smell the scent of wet earth. What was that Dido song that caught your eye.. the one with Shahana Goswami in the video? Oh yes.. “Let’s do the things we normally do”.
Yeah.. let’s do that.
My mobile blinks. Message from Mom with detailed instructions on how to make a paper boat. A smile spreads inside like a warm blanket of love. I will always be a child who smells of Mom.