Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Bachelors

(Just one of those snippets of memory that popped up, after reading Kochuthresiamma's ruminations on Mallus and Bongs...)

We lived in a tiny complex of 4 flats, on a side road branching off one of the main thoroughfares.  Ours was on the second floor (or first floor, take your pick, if you prefer to call the lower floor the ground floor.) We were one of two families initially, the flat below ours already housed another family, whose daughter was also a Sujatha, just like me.
They had a Pomeranian mix puppy, named Tarquin for the Roman emperor,even though she was female. By the time they realized their mistake, it was a little late to correct everyone's impression of her name, so Tarquin she remained. She was a friendly little thing and would trot up every morning for a lick of sugar from my palm, nudging at our door, which would shudder every morning promptly at seven. I would open the door, dispense her treat and she would trot back down, contented. All was right with the world.

Soon enough, the flat opposite had some new occupants, a pair of Bengali bachelors. Both had the same name (Ashok) but one was Banerjee, the other Chaterjee. One was tall and thin, the other short and chubby-faced.They largely kept to themselves, their presence made evident by occasional whiffs of fish frying wafting from their kitchen, or occasional snatches of flute melodies that Banerjee liked to play.

Some months down the road, trouble started. We would hear Tarquin banging on our doors at odd hours of the night. We tried complaining to the neighbors downstairs, but they swore that Tarquin had been chained and asleep at those times. It took one night of staying awake and whipping open the door at top speed to catch the culprit.That was when we found out that it was the bachelors acting up, having indulged in a 'little tipple', confusing our door with theirs and generally being nuisances. There was little we could do, since we hardly talked to them anyway.

We did come up with a sneaky solution, based on a suggestion from our maidservant. The flat doors had an external latch, so we took to latching their door from outside after they had retired to their tippling, and unlatching it in the morning. After we tried this a few times, they got the point and stopped indulging in banging the doors.

A few months later, Banerjee fractured his leg in a major accident and he spent months moping lonely in the flat, hobbling around on crutches. There was literally non-stop flute music during the day, of we heard very little, being busy and out of the house. The weekends were another story. We would make every effort to go out, just escape the mournful flute.

At some point, the leg healed, and Banerjee made his way back to work, walking with the slight limp that would last him all his life. Chaterjee had moved out, repelled, I suspect, by too much melancholic flute melodies. Or it may have been that he got married and needed to move out.

(Time has a way of blurring some details of the story, while the main focus remains sharp and clear, in full color.)

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