When My Neighbor Returned Home…

Part 1

The commotion outside in the common landing woke me up. It was around 3 in the morning on a Sunday. It must be Arun, the neighbor, returning from one of his regular visits to the Middle East, I guessed. And, promptly without a thought, plumped back to sleep.

The day was no different as Sundays go until the expected knock at the door in the afternoon. It was Arun’s wife, Raji with the customary bag of goodies that Arun brought for us – a tube of shaving lotion for me that I had liked before, a bottle of perfume for the daughter and for my wife, a scarf to exaggerate Mumbai winter and a small packet of unsalted almonds. I’ll have to give it to his suaveness – he does a swell job of bringing back these gifts and trinkets for all. He gets everyone – even the neighbors – looking forward to his visits or rather, his returns. I say this without any rancor irregardless of the consequent waves that lash my shores every time without fail. The lady finally took leave after rounds of admiring ha-ha’s. And a disquieting quiet descended in the house.

Here, let me break out for a minute to bring you up to the day on my own performance in this social intercourse. Buying gifts has never been an easy matter; it left me drained more than a session in the gym. I’m not what you would call a tightwad. Nor I’m one to look at it as an inescapable chore. The nub of the problem is that these carefully selected gifts, unlike Arun’s, for some reason failed to enthrall the giftees. On my last visit, I had brought a clip-on odometer for my wife to help pace her evening walks in the park. She refused to use it after a week just because it reported her effort to be less than what she thought it was. The juicer bought on an earlier visit went back to its original carton after it once splashed the liquid on a startled lady when the prankish lid flew off its seat. It didn’t matter that the offending lid was not pressed down to a snug fit before use. The solar energy kit bought for my daughter Divi unfortunately came with a lens disabled with birth defects and was promptly lodged in the loft in near-mint condition. The ‘Tell Me How?’ that I bought for Mishraji’s daughter Nimma came back – I’m sure it was inadvertent – to my house unopened as a birthday gift for Divi who in turn passed it onto her friend Renu.

Nowadays, Divi welcomes me home with a half-turn in the bed, crinkled eyes, a muted yawn and back to interrupted sleep in under a couple of minutes. Nothing remiss really – I can’t be expecting her to be clear-eyed, springing and bounding and hugging at 2 in the morning to unpack the gifts that seem to woefully fall short. It is alleged I buy gifts that I like them to have rather than… A fine point, I thought.

Coming back to the reign of silence in the house. Shortly after, a plateful of vegetable upma – a cindrella that gets magically transformed into a culinary delight in our kitchen appeared before me wordlessly along with hot filter coffee. Finishing the snack, I settled down with the pile of Sunday papers. When I had reached the editorials and the middles, the lady of the house, emerged from the kitchen and plunked in front of the TV in time to watch one of those interminable weekly Tamizh serials in which the father and his daughters – they had to be nothing less than four – moved untiringly from one misery to another cunningly contrived by their story-factory. Following her, appeared Divi with the aspect of just concluding not a very satisfactory call with someone on her cell phone. The juxtaposition of the mother and daughter was, I feared, fraught with possibilities, none to my relish.

I ask you to recall in your mind the frame that you see often in the wild-life TV programs – when the grazing deer pauses for a moment and lifts its head and its quivering ears sensing danger. Under such conditions, the subject deer in these programs leaps and bounds to safety on all fours . Here, however, I could only squirm in situ and dig deeper into the editorial observations of the recently concluded election results with seeming nonchalance.

After all, ‘Honi ko kaun taal saktha hai?’ , roughly translating to ‘Whatever had to happen will happen.’

(To be contd.)

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One Response to When My Neighbor Returned Home…

  1. Bharat says:

    Raghu,

    I read both the pieces. They are very humorous. There is a very good flow. Both the storylines are excellent. Is it possible nowadays to get the short stories published in some magazine? These stories are certainly very good candidates.

    The language seems a mix of P G Wodehouse style (Indianized). However use of more colloquial words and phrases will enhance the appeal manyfold.

    Some phrases and words sometimes seem out of place/context and may not be fully appreciated by many readers, is how I felt. On further reading I felt the style keeps drifting away from P G Wodehouse like with a jarring effect.

    As suggested by you, below are some texts/phrases. BTW in your writing style, insertion of Hindi doesn’t seem to add value or punch.

    Of Men, God and Others

    Your code begins to look like Income Tax Act offering exemptions and deductions.

    These days even clouds, I hear, don’t pour down unless seeded.

    When My Neighbor Returned Home…

    anthromorphizing the bottle

    Raji’s departure bringing me back to the terra firma.

    This injunction was to be taken as an effusive daughterly appreciation.

    preordained beneficiaries

    Sharma’s shop and ‘Youthfully Yours’ were different noun-phrases referring to the same business entity

    the parentee’s (pardon the neologism

    thermal noise (that’s the swoosh of electrons in their atomic orbits, in simpler terms).

    that IBM’s Deeper Blue

    I could only squirm in situ

    Like

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