It was one of those Sundays when, if you are at hometown in India, you are forced to attend a family function that is necessary yet tends to get boring. This time it was a Gruhapravesham in one of the remote areas of Bangalore that I had never before ventured till date. However, it was a nice area and a new apartment. The house itself was neat and clean.
When the rituals within the house became a trifle too monotonous, I couldn’t stand it any more. I went to the terrace. It was a big terrace, and since the apartment itself was at an elevated area, the view of the city of Bangalore was immense and, in a way, wonderful. I roamed around from one edge of the terrace to another. The zephyr was nice and refreshing. The air was clean and unpolluted.
I decided to stand on one edge of the periphery where the wind was most, and rested my arm on the parapet wall. It was to the west of the apartment, the side of the apartment where it neighboured a series of small houses, the apartment itself standing amidst them all like a colossal!
It is at times like this, when you stand doing nothing, and there is silence everywhere, and the view is breath-taking, and wind is lapping you up with the speed of the rotating and revolving Earth, that it feels like time is standing still, and somehow you feel one with the Universe, and admire humbly how small one actually is, in front of the whole world.
One tends to get contemplative at such moments. A kind of introspection starts, and questions tend to crop up about one’s employment, one’s ability, one’s actual goals and one’s wishes. There will be a bitter thought or two about the sad past, a nice warm thought about one special person, and the never-ending worries of the unknown future. It is, I guess, habitual.
So, there I was, thinking how good it would be to do what one wants to do in one’s own life, how immensely satisfying it is to carve out a life that one craves for, to break the barriers and shackles that a family tends to slowly but surely wove, to get away from the materialistic monotony, from the implicit responsibilities of a social life, when I heard a slow creaking sound below.
Its strange how a strong thought process can be broken by a soft creak! I peered down. Some two floors below, the neighbouring small house of thirty by forty had an even small enclosure of about ten by ten on its terrace. When I had first seen it, I had guessed it to be a bathroom or a common warehouse of some sort for dumping unwanted items. Now, its door was opening thereby causing the creak.
The door opened fully. A girl came out. She was dressed expensively. Sizing her up, I could make out that she was perhaps in her mid-twenties, akin to thousands of non-localites who were working in one of the innumerable call centers or software industries that had sprouted up in Bangalore over the last couple of years.
I realized, perhaps a shade late, with a shock that that ten foot by ten foot house was where she actually lived! That ramshackle, run-down, sheltered enclosure, roofed by a single sheet metal was infact a house, where apparently a human being lived and, I am sure, paid for it! Although not wholly unaware of the fact that many of my own colleagues lived in such a state, it still made my jaw drop to see it first-hand.
She seemed to be going out. She took a look inside to make sure all was in place. She might live in one of the biggest houses in some remote village, to which she might invite all her colleagues, but in Bangalore, with a hutment like that, and her apparel indicating her countenance, it is easy to surmise that she wouldn’t be so keen to have anyone seeing her rented house except her close few.
Although she would never know I was seeing her, somehow I felt guilty for taking stock of the situation. I felt like as if I was spying on her. A thought as if, if anyone gets to know where she lived, she might feel embarrassed and the last thing I wanted to do was to embarrass her.
But before I could move, she locked up her house, walked the length of the terrace, and down the steps, embarked upon her simple two-wheeler and rode away. Anyone seeing her, with her simple make-up, neat dress, trendy hair-do, and her two-wheeler, would never imagine that she lived in such a simple hutment.
Somehow, the whole thing made me go back to the rituals. I felt sorry. I felt pity. I felt sad for the innumerous many in this world who had to lead a life like this.
It dawned upon me later, that it was not just Bangalore. There were millions like this all over the world.