Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Big Fish, Small Fish. Part I

In the bustling Satellite City area of Ahmedabad stood a nondescript building with a dingy grey façade that looked as if it were awaiting the next earthquake to take it apart. The outer walls had not been painted for years and the few residents who had hoped to mobilise things were long gone or had lost hope. Moss had made itself comfortable on the intersection of wall and ground and no amount of determined scrubbing could now remove it. There were forty flats, all constructed in the same image. Entry with a small living room that led into a bedroom more long than wide. The bedroom in turn led into a small bathroom where the bathing area nudged the tiny washbasin and the Indian toilet was relegated to the far side.. To the right of the bedroom was the kitchen which emptied its vapors back, or through an exhaust into a small chute area from where they escaped into the flats of the other occupants.In this delicious or nauseating commingling of smells (depending on what you wanted to eat that day) most of the residents led precarious lives atleast as far as their neighbours were concerned. They met them for Diwali or Garba festivities, wished them polite hellos and Happy New Years and evaded their smells the rest of the year. There was one flat however that did not participate even in these occasional sallies.

B12 was where Wasim Ahmed lived. His parents had died years ago after years of prolonged suffering following a car accident. The years of his life had slowly flowed under the rigors of court compensation cases, medical advice and second opinions. The groans of the invalids followed him through the years until they lapsed, one six months after the other . No one had had the time to lookout for a suitable bride for him, nor had he ever thought to find one himself. He was growing old gracefully now, and no longer inclined to need anyone to share his life and time. His routine was simple, his needs were few. Every morning, he took the 7:50 bus to Gandhi Nagar where he worked at the telephone exchange taking in customer complaints and notifying linesmen of the cases they needed to attend. He carried with him his lunch of rice, dal and vegetables which he cooked himself in the morning. Before leaving home, he swept the floor, dusted the TV covers and sofa and washed up the few utensils that he had used. This quiet existence suited him well. For this reason, he even refused to employ a maid, whose chatter and gossip would have disturbed the sedate pattern of his days. The 6:10 bus brought him back home, whereupon he reheated the mornings meal and had a quiet dinner after washing up. On weekends he went to the mosque and picked up a few books from the neighborhood library’s limited collection of English and Gujarati novels. Quiet was the pervading motif of his life, with one exception.

No comments: